About this Show

U.S. Senate

News/Business.

NETWORK

DURATION
03:00:00

RATING

SCANNED IN
San Francisco, CA, USA

SOURCE
Comcast Cable

TUNER
Channel 17 (141 MHz)

VIDEO CODEC
mpeg2video

AUDIO CODEC
ac3

PIXEL WIDTH
704

PIXEL HEIGHT
480

TOPIC FREQUENCY

Us 35, America 21, Washington 14, Ms. Ayotte 9, Ayotte 8, U.s. 8, Mr. Johnson 7, United States 7, South Carolina 6, Mccain 6, Ms. Correa 5, Ms. Tulli 5, Mr. Reid 5, Mr. Whitehouse 5, Ms. Mikulski 5, Mr. Mccain 4, Inhofe 4, Graham 3, Mr. Mcconnell 3, Mr. Gamvroulas 3,
Borrow a DVD
of this show
  CSPAN    U.S. Senate    News/Business.  

    February 28, 2013
    9:00 - 12:00pm EST  

9:00am
e-verify makes this problem worse because it encourages bad behavior by employers. e-verify it encourages employers to miss classify workers as independent contractors and move them off the books. it also gives employers one more tool to read how it against workers. so there were complaints about mistreatment, the employer can decide to use e-verify against the worker. when employers can easily abuse some workers of all american workplace suffer. e-verify employers routinely violate the program rules, and that hurts workers but the only way a worker knows that he has in e-verify period is if an employer tells them. e-verify is a program that space on agreement between the employer and the government. and workers are really just stuck on the sidelines, even though they have the most to lose from an era. for instance, 42% workers say that they are not notified by the employer of an e-verify error. and if a worker doesn't know that an error exist, and no way
9:01am
to correct it. is vital important that the worker know about errors in the records because errors can lead to workers getting fired, through a final nonconfirmation but because the likelihood of your citizens is at risk even seemingly small error rates really matter. using uscis own statistics, only 50,000 is workers experience and be verify air lest you. that's with 93% of employers not using the program. outdated examples of e-verify errors. a u.s. citizen in tennessee actually receive an error notice from her employer. she went to the social security administration office to fix it. she thinks she fixes it at social security, but e-verify generates another error and she gets fired. another example, a u.s. citizen experienced an error because an employer made a simple mistake when they were typing the employee's social security number into the system. again, that worker went to a
9:02am
social security office, couldn't resolve the error there, e-verify generated a final nonconfirmation and the worker got fired. the most disturbing piece of all this is that for workers who lose their jobs because of an e-verify error, there's no formal process in place for them to get the jobs back and that's a problem for thousands of workers who experience these errors because you can imagine, these problems are only going to grow exponentially if we mandate the program. given these concerns, we have recommendations for how to move forward. first, congress needs to pass immigration reform legislation that protects employee rights and has a road to citizenship for the millions of unauthorized workers in our communities. protecting workers is the best way to put unscrupulous employers out of business and raise standards at the workplace. second we got to make sure that e-verify isn't misused. employers shouldn't able to use e-verify as a way to avoid their obligations. if you participate in the program, they should have to
9:03am
follow the program rules and violations of the trolls should come with penalties. there are currently no meaningful penalties for employers who don't follow the rules. third, make sure that the thousands of citizens and legal it off as immigrants who expects errors know how to correct errors and keep their job. government errors should not stand between citizens and their job. last, mandatory verify is part of immigration reform proposal, you need to face again. like mr. johnson was referring to, you need to phase it in gradually with benchmarks for performance. after each face and we need to evaluate what's happening during the facing, the number of american workers losing their jobs, the number of employers refusing the program, and the programs accuracy rate before moving forward. thank you. >> thank you may. thank all of our witnesses are at this point i would recognize the chairman of the full committee, mr. goodlatte. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and want to thank all the witnesses for the testimony.
9:04am
ms. correa, i will start with you. appreciated the demonstration of how the program works well in most instances, and i wanted to ask you to step back in time a couple years. your predecessor testified in the subcommittee on the same issue two years ago, and her written testament indicated that the uscis was exploring ways to lock identities for social security numbers. your testimony today says essentially the same thing, that you're developing that capability. so i'm wondering what progress you have made on the ss in lock ability cents 2011 and when we expect to see that capability implemented the. >> thank you for the question, chairman. we have been working on the features, we are working with the social security
9:05am
administration and, of course, the department of homeland security, office of civil rights and civil liberties as well as the privacy officers to make sure that we develop a locking capability in the system that protects the rights of the employees, ensures the social security numbers proper lock in the system and that works. we expect the enhancement to be completed later this year, and we be able to come back and brief you a little bit more on exactly how that would work but we are still exploring how to do that. >> thank you. mr. gamvroulas, you mention in your testimony that you were skeptical of utah's e-verify requirements when it was first enacted in 2012. what concerns did you have prior to actual using e-verify? after you begin using it, did those concerns become a reality, or have your concerns been a lead? >> thank you for the question, mr. guerre. well, we were concerned about the accuracy and the time in this, because we have not been
9:06am
using it previously. once we were able to train our human resources people, we found it to be, as you sign the demonstration, fairly easy-to-use. although it did take some time initially to train our human resources people. we were concerned, candidly, more about the impact on utah businesses. because we were concerned, one of the reasons were skeptical about it was that utah would be one of only a few states that would have enacted a mandatory the verification system. the concern what that would do to employers and employees and to the business culture and climate in utah. we have found that that has not happened. for the most part, those that use the system that we're aware of have also had similar experiences as we have, that it's an efficient and effective
9:07am
system. >> to you and your h.r. staff prefer using the i-9 form or either five speak with we prefer using e-verify. and the reason is that it gives -- as i mentioned in my testimony, the idea of safe harbor. and that is not just for the company but for the individual. if you are the human resources person for a company and you are checking off the boxes that the information you've been given, that you can, that you verify that those documents are real, the i process you're simply taking the documents, statement into an application. they are in a file and you might be audited, you might not be audited. in this case, the case of the e-verify, we can print out the confirmation letter, put in a file with information. if we're ever audited or ever
9:08am
investigated, we can demonstrate that we've gone through the process and verify the information itself. our human resource people have told me unequivocally that they prefer e-verify system. >> let me get mr. johnson and opportunity tell us what he is hearing from his members who currently use e-verify as to whether or not the system is easy to use or too burdensome and too costly? >> no. it's, they have found it quite easy to use, and, any new technology there's rampant cost at the beginning but once you get used to it it is working very well. ironically, congressman, one comment i've got is sometimes the concerned that it doesn't catch, it does not catch anyone who is undocumented and then sometimes when the government shows up for a raid, that result in even though the employer has not knowingly hired anyone who is undocumented result in a
9:09am
raid. >> so if they've acted in good face -- good faith, find a better way to handle the. if there's evidence -- let me give ms. tulli and opportunity to respond and ask you a particular question. you make a valid point in your written testimony when you know that even in states that have e-verify mandates for all employers, not every employer has signed up for the program. so what kind of enforcement mechanism do you support in order to help ensure that employers sign up for the program? >> thank you for the question. exactly to your point, mr. goodlatte, what we know in my written test but is there is widespread noncompliance that eight out of 10 employers are not using the errors of -- program. five years, we think the best enforcement measure is actually a broad and robust legalization plan. that plan should include a comprehensive immigration reform was employed protections, and a road to citizenship for the unauthorized workers were
9:10am
currently in our country. >> okay, but to get back to this piece of the entire process, do you have specific suggestions that would encourage employers to use it more than they do? other than mandating it, which we certainly obvious they are considering because i think any, any type of immigration reform that you just outlined would have to include a piece that assured us that we were going to have a repeat of the 1986 experience where we did not have enforcement and employer sanctions, were not pursued aggressively, and quite frankly employers have had legitimate complaints about forged documents. e-verify is at least a partial answer to that, and so we think it's a partial answer to the puzzle of where you would like to get in terms of some kind of legalization. we don't want -- this hearing today is not about all of those aspects of the matter, but we
9:11am
would welcome any input you want to give us later on about ways you could make the system work better. thank you, mr. chairman spent thank the gentleman from virginia. the chair will now recognize ranking member lofgren. >> thank you, mr. chairman. before asking my question, i would like to ask unanimous consent to place statement into the record from the service employees international union, the american civil liberties union, the coalition for human immigration, immigrant rights of los angeles, the hispanic federation, and a letter from a broad coalition consisting of organized labor, faith, civil rights and immigrant rights organizations. >> without objection. >> thank you. as i mentioned in my few statements at the beginning of the hearing, as far as, i think
9:12am
it's obvious that any e-verify system that's going to be mandated for all employers has to be, can't proceed reforming the immigration system for obvious reasons. the most glaring example is in the agriculture sector as has been referenced. we know that american agriculture is heavily dependent on undocumented migrant workers. and we could do e-verify and that, proof that is true but well written out of history. announced -- the net result which is to damage. so i just think being e-verify system considered would have to be concurrent with reform of the system. but even with that, i do -- you know, i have not support this program in the past, but i'm trying to keep an open mind,
9:13am
that if we were to reform the immigration system, and is part of it, how would we deal with the issues that we've looked at over the years. you know, there's statistics, bloomberg did a study and i think he referenced it, mr. johnson, bloomberg as many a very high cost or small businesses to implement that. i don't know if the figure of 2.6 billion, for small businesses is correct or not, but we do understand that in a december 2010 survey of employers who currently don't use e-verify, 25% of the small employers said they were not enrolled because they don't have the computer. they are not online. so this is going to be problematic for them. and the last thing we want to do in a tough economy is put more
9:14am
costs, especially on the small business sector. so masking, i don't know, ms. correa, ms. tulli, an interview with the ideas of how we might accommodate those small businesses that are not in a position to utilize the system. i could really see because of the lights, but it's not accessible to them in the same way it is the people who are online. further question about, and it's been referenced by ms. tulli, we have had situations where people who are authorized to work were dinged. and some of the statistics -- and we're making improvements, i mean, which is great, but it if you scale it up to the entire workforce, it's hundreds of thousands of people, potentially if you just extrapolate out the error rate, who would be
9:15am
american citizens, who would be told, you know, you are not legal. and i was just telling the chairman, when i chaired the committee i had a lawyer who worked for me, tracy hong, who was an immigration lawyer, and i was chair of the immigration subcommittee, and she was an american citizen. she went down to the house office employment center. she got deemed as not authorized to work, she was an american citizen. i mean come it took her a long time and even though she she was a really good immigration lawyer and i was chair of the committee, to actually straighten it out. so i know firsthand that he can be a real pain for people. and so i'm looking for ways, how do we put something in place to prevent trauma to people who are legally here? even if it's not, i'm not going to say it's every case but of the 150,000 americans, that's a big deal and we need to think through how to protect those people. so those are two questions of,
9:16am
among many others by don't have a short period of time. ms. correa, ms. tulli, any of you, can you address those two main issues? >> if i may. first of all, i'll talk about the accessibility by the small companies, companies that do not always have web access. we certainly recognize that issue. we understand it. and so some of the things that we've been doing, recently with upgraded all of our web browsers so that companies can actually come and employers, can actually access e-verify and self-check, which is a service of e-verify, for the employees. they can act to access it using their smartphone. we are also working on developing an actual downloadable application for smartphones because what we're finding is that community out there, many in the community out there do have that capability. and we recognize that there are a lot of the smaller -- >> that would be a big help.
9:17am
>> there are smaller companies out there that actually hire on-site audit temporary workers. so we want to make it as accessible as possible but we also continue our outreach efforts, going out i and talking to these communities and gaining a better understanding of their needs, their concerns so that we can build that into the enhancement the that we're working on. last but not least, self-check. i think it is important to recognize that celtic is out there as a tool so that individuals can go in and validate, in other words, enter their data. they literally are going into e-verify and it gives them an information in advance as to whether or not they might encounter a mismatch. that gives them the ability to address the potential mismatch before they actually seek employment. so those are three things, the outreach of course, the accessibility by smart phones, and then also self-check service. but certainly we continue
9:18am
talking to the committee after. we continue our outreach efforts because we want to understand and address the needs of all the businesses out there. i also would like to point out that in looking at our statistics in e-verify, 81% of the companies in the system today are actually companies with 100 or less employees. so the small business community is actively using, is actively registered in the system and we continue to monitor the progress to make sure that they are not encountering any problems. >> if i could have an opportunity to respond as well? >> certainly, if you would to the extent you can, make it as concise as you can. >> gotcha. so to your question about what can be done in the context of legalization to make the program better, i outlined this in more depth in my test would first them we need to get that error rate as was possible. when american jobs at 11 need to make sure the system is as accurate as possible. second we need greater formal process for folks to contest
9:19am
airs, to those final nonconfirmation, an easy way to do that. so a government air doesn't stand between you and your job. third, we need to create penalties for employers who misuse the program. it's a real problem. the employer has to tell you if there's an error and event employer doesn't again get no way of knowing about it. and lastly, like mr. johnson mentioned, i think we need a gradual phase in what after each phase in which had benchmarks, said many workers have lost their job, check the accuracy rate. thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> yes-men. think about that before recognize the gentleman from texas i did want to quickly ask unanimous and said in a to the record a letter from the -- the associate o general contractors, leaving pillars of american the national contractors, the national electric a contractors association, supporting a nationwide mandatory electronic employment arbitration system containing certain provisions such as federal print and clause in certain department
9:20am
provisions. without objection, i would have recognize the immediate past chairman of the whole judiciary committee, the gentleman from texas, mr. smith. >> i'd like to make a brief statement make a couple of poins and ask a few questions. 23 million americans are unemployed or underemployed. meanwhile, seven when people are working in the united states illegally. these jobs should go to legal workers. we could open up millions of jobs for unemployed americans by requiring all employers to use e-verify. e-verify immediately confirms 99.7% of work eligible employees. i don't of any government agency that has that kind of efficiency. and quite frankly that's probably as close to perfection as we're going to get on this human birth. over 400,000 employers across the united states voluntarily use either fight to check employment eligibility of their employees, in 1700 new
9:21am
businesses voluntarily sign up every week. in 2008, the house passed a standalone five year extension of e-verify but a vote of 407-2. in 2009, the senate passed a permanent e-verify by voice vote, overwhelming congressional support. the public also supports e-verify. february 2012 research poll found that 78% of likely voters favor mandating that all employers, electronically verify the immigration status of their workers. that included 81% of the democrats, 81% of black americans, and 76% of other minorities, primarily hispanics. i do want to spend much time on it because it's old and, frankly, out of date and i think at this point it has been discredited, but its estimate when it came to the error rate or the cost was based entirely
9:22am
on speculation, and the study actually says quote, it is important to recognize that without direct evidence of the truth employment authorization status, other workers, cases made e-verify, any estimate of the level of identity theft, that was their concern about the error rate, will be very imprecise. and, in fact, the legal workforce act of introduced last year contains a number of provisions aimed at preventing the use of stolen identities in e-verify. so we've addressed that problem in a number of ways. also in regard to the cost, wanted to point out that another study reveals that three quarters of the employers stated that the cost of using e-verify was zero. and i think you mentioned a while ago we cannot access e-verify on smart phones. i mean, this is something that's become a lot easier to process. well, let me address a couple of maybe there are more comments and questions, ashley and that a lot of think use.
9:23am
ms. correa, i like a virtual say i don't think i've ever enjoyed an administration officials testify more than i enjoyed yours today. i want to thank the administration personally for being a strong advocate for e-verify, for looking for ways to both expand it and improve it. and actually your 99.7% figure today of a proving eligible employees is actually an increase from a few months ago when it was 99.5%, so it is even getting better as we go along. mr. johnson, i wanted to thank you for the revaluation of e-verify, and may i ask you to comment briefly on the cost and error rate that some people say our disadvantages of e-verify question mentioned in your oral statement. you went into more detail in a written statement i wonder if you would clarify that? >> the study, the two by $7 billion cost study, yeah,
9:24am
obviously that's -- we had our economists look at it and i think is a couple of points. one is that it was based on old data, and availed of it was once people get accustomed to new technology, the cost of compliance goes down. secondly, more technically, it relied on the so-called children's study to estimate how many new hires they're going to be in the economy, there for me people get run through e-verify. but that study which includes also people who transfer between, transfer within companies and are not necessarily new hires. includes people who are not going through e-verify. i think a big part of it though is that there's an initial cost and after that the cost diminishes, diminishes radically. now look, the fact is small businesses, the unit cost per employer commitment to talk about this law or labor law,
9:25am
unit cost per employee typically under regulation is more of a small business, there's just less way to spread it around as israel. >> okay. and mr. gamvroulas, just want to thank you for your favorable comments about the legal workforce act from last year, and also i think in your written testimony, i do have time for questions let me just make a statement. i think you checked 320 employees to you got to red flags were not come from and both of them decided not to contest the. so sounded to me like you are at about 100% effectiveness for e-verify program. and thank you for being a witness that can talk to us about the practical impact. so thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank the gentleman from texas to the chair when i recognize the gentleman from puerto rico, mr. pierluisi. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i think the witnesses.
9:26am
the first thing that i'd like to call meant -- comment come up with all of support the concept of comprehensive immigration reform it and i commend you for that. as i see it, and expanded e-verify system should be part of a new immigration system in our country. because we all realize that having 119 undocumented immigrants around, or underground, makes no sense, just shows the system hasn't been working. having said that, i have a couple of questions for ms. tulli, but any of you could comment further. first thing is, how can we ensure that any expansion of e-verify addresses the concerns you have raised in your testimony, such as database
9:27am
errors and employer compliance? >> there are a couple of key things that need to happen, as you stated, mr. pierluisi. e-verify should only be considered on the context of a broad immigration reform that has a road to citizenship for the workers currently living and laboring in our communities but a couple of quick things. first, get the error rate down as much as possible. we want as close to perfect as possible when american jobs are at risk. we want to create penalties for misuse because again, it's the employer has to tell the employee about the nonconfirmation. so the employee doesn't know, they do not to contest the they are completely powerless. we also need to think about the phase income at the phase-in needs to be gradual to make sure that we're getting it right. it's better to do it correctly than it is to do it quickly. so after each phase-in we need to step back, look and see how the performance is happening in the field and if i were from
9:28am
the. elastic and we need to make sure that there's a process for folks who received his final not commissions in error, to correct those effectively. >> i believe you stated that 42% of workers were not informed by their employer of a tentative nonconfirmation in 2009, is that right, roughly? >> that's correct. >> now, our employers not required to do so? why don't they? speak was under e-verify his program rules, employers are required to tell employees about nonconfirmation. the problem is there are no penalties if they don't do that. so we need to great penalties so that employers will actually comply with the program. >> am i right by interpreting something you said, that it sounds like employers are selectively using e-verify, is that right? >> based on the same study, 33% of employers prescreened
9:29am
workers, and that's particularly problematic because again, if you're a u.s. citizen has an error in the system and employer pre-screenings you, you have no way to know that if you would just continue not to get higher, particularly in a mandatory system you go from job to job being prescreened not being hired and not be aware of the air. >> ms. correa, i say that because my spanish gets in the way, but i see that you want to comment. go ahead. >> thank you, sir. yes if i could comment. first of all, i'm misuse of the system. as indicated in my testimony, we do have a robust monitoring and compliance section that is monitoring the use of the system. ..
9:30am
or even ice if we see miss use or improper use. i would like to comment on the fact that employers are told specifically in all the guidelines, memorandum of understanding and all the material that they are not to prescreen employees and if we become aware of any such behavior we immediately refer those cases. last but not least i want to comment on the review process. guana t n c comes through and the employer sits down with the employees, the employee can contest the cnc and they have eight days to contact the federal government and provide
9:31am
whatever information. i want to point out what generates a cnc is a mismatch between the data entered and the data we are checking against other databases. employee does have eight days to come to the agency, or social security, correct that data. it could take longer for us to make that correction we hold that case as pending and notified the employer. the other thing i would like to add is while we don't have a formal process for for the final non confirmation review we do review final non confirmation of an employee contact us. in fiscal year 2012 we reviewed 1400 final non confirmations and an interesting statistic that came out of that was in 83% of the final 9 confirmations we reviewed the employee had actually abandoned the cnc. they didn't follow up or contests it or if they indicated there was a contest they didn't follow through. i wants to point that out and
9:32am
mention we are going to formalize the final notification process, the final 9 confirmation process to make a more formal process of when employee can come for a formal review of the final 9 confirmation. thank you. >> my time is a. >> i thank the gentleman from puerto rico and the chair recognizes the gentleman from iowa, mr. king. >> i start with you, miss correa. if you were to improve on a 99.7% number and i support everything i heard mr. smith say and compliments to you for working so intensively on improving e verify. the remaining 0.3%, i understood that had to do with married names that didn't get changed and is that how you get a fixed balance? is that what is required, to use e verify? >> the name change was an
9:33am
example of a potential mismatch but the answer is we have got to make sure the non confirmation is properly being returned for a mismatch and that the employee reaches out to us or the social security administration with generation see it is to make sure the data gets fixed in the system but we certainly continue to find ways to get that error rate down, make sure we are getting to the employees and making them aware what they can do to fix that information. >> this is so much better than it was predicted to be a few years ago. mr. gamvroulas, in the business that you are in, i heard you say you believe you should be able to use e verify. i would use it with a bona fide offer rather than having to hire someone and find out there unlawfully working in the united states. >> thank you. that is an important distinction. in my comments, the point i was
9:34am
trying to make is this runs a little counter to the other testimony is weekend run e-verify until we hire the person, the person is actually been hired, is accepted for employment and they are on the payroll and that is why we are able to do with the e-verify system. that is problematic because they are now within the system. >> in you have actually hired someone who cannot legally work in the united states ended interpretation it might be a violation of law. >> it might be something they can go to the social security administration and get cleared up and that is great, but in the meantime, they are on the payroll and until that is cleared up they are an employee. >> you would like to be able to offer, here is a conditional offer. i have to run you through e-verify and if you clear that
9:35am
you can go to work for our company. that is what i want to clarify. i think mr. johnson agrees with that but i want to come back to you. you have contractors that would like to use e-verify to clean up their work force on their current or legacy employees? >> the sub contractor base that we use, the vast majority are small-businesses and in the state of utah currently the vast majority are not required to use e-verify because they have 15 employees. >> would you select an elective for an employer to do so a their discretion? >> we would not support that. we would take the same position as the chamber that legacy employees should not be post screen. >> i read the position of the chamber on this and i am curious from you if you could tell me,
9:36am
the concern that has been voiced is an employer might step in to some type of liability if they utilize the e-verify on current employees. why would one object to you employer using their discretion on using e-verify? >> i can only speak for my company and why we would be concerned about that. we would be concerned, we would not do that because we believe that it would open us up to complaints of discrimination. >> would you object to other companies utilizing at their discretion? >> i think we would continue. as our company, we would maintain our position and concur with the chamber. >> if we wrote into a bill a safe harbor for those who legitimately use e-verify, that would resolve the concern? >> i don't think i understand. >> if we rode into a bill a safe
9:37am
harbor for employers to utilize e-verify and current employees, wouldn't that resolve your concern as well? >> i think it opens, i would be concerned as an employer that that would open us up to -- >> don't you have an attitude about making your own decisions? i am thinking i as an employer for all the years i have been payroll and it is a great many of them i wanted to make my own decisions and in want the government to tell me i could and and i didn't like it when government said to me that i couldn't use e-verify unless i put the person on my payroll. this is the same principle, an employer wants to clean up the work force and there is the tool to do that is 99.7% accurate. of some are concerned about that liability, why would we not want them to make the decision themselves? they are responsible people in this country too. >> i would be concerned about
9:38am
e-verify being used as a tool to do that if someone wants to clean up their work force there are many ways to do that. >> thank you, mr. gamvroulas. i regret the clock has run down. i yield back. >> the chair will recognize the gentleman from illinois, mr. gutierrez. >> thank you for calling this hearing. i would like to ask miss tulli, why is the error rate for naturalized u.s. citizens, what is it according to a naturalized u.s. citizens in the e-verify system what is the error rate? >> there are a lot of facts and figures and contain more in my testimony, naturalized u.s. citizens are 30 times more likely to experience an error and we estimate based on statistical model included in the last batch that if this were to go to scale, 1.2 million americans and legally authorized workers are going to experience an error. >> why do you think so?
9:39am
that is pretty high. >> that is a lot of workers. >> a lot of people. >> we are here suggesting the error rate needs to be as close to perfect as possible. when a government error can stand between an american citizen and their ability to work, that is a problem. as we consider making this program mandatory as part of immigration reform we need to make sure we have protections in place for this sort of situation. i elaborated earlier on creating a formal process for these final non confirmations. workers' jobs should not be on the line. we are talking about citizens and legally authorized immigrants, those jobs should not be on the line because they're the governor -- error and a government database. >> 30 times higher for naturalized citizens. i was shocked by the example in your written testimony of a veteran, a former captain in the u.s. navy for 34 years of service who was flagged by
9:40am
e-verify as not eligible, took an attorney two months to resolve the problem. why would it take two months to resolve for a 34 year veteran of the navy. >> this is precisely the problem. when you experience errors the final non confirmation can be incredibly difficult to correct those errors. when a worker sees a tentative non confirmation they have eight federal working days to correct, but they have to take time off of work and go to a social security office. if you live in a large state where there's one social security office you might be driving 100 miles to get there and then you have to stand in line and a gas and babysitting. the final on confirmation there is no formal process to contest these errors and we are thinking of taking this program to scale based on a statistical model, 770,000 people could be in a similar position to the example you reference, the u.s. navy captain and that is a problem as we think about making this
9:41am
program mandatory with immigration reform. >> do you support e-verify as part of comprehensive immigration reform or independent? >> we think the first step is immigration reform to bring people out of the shadows and to make them part of our democracy. >> you see e-verify as an essentials part of comprehensive immigration? >> e-verify is part of the package. you have to see what the legalization program looks like and how many workers will qualify to be on the road to citizenship. if it is part of the package we have outlined specific changes that need to be made to the program. >> would you support e-verify as part of comprehensive immigration reform? >> as part of comprehensive immigration for we have to know what the legalization package looks like so we talk to the office what the thinking is a run legalization peace because if you legalize a small portion of the work force, that doesn't get it done. we need an entirely legal work force or as we heard earlier
9:42am
today -- >> so you think you heard you read some excerpts that it is small group of people. >> i am not making any assumptions. >> it is good not to do that so let me ask miss soraya correa, why is the error rate so high? what do you think? why is the error rate so high? 30%? why do you think it is so high for naturalized citizens? >> let me talk a little bit about error rates. i apologize because it is very confusing. there are a lot of numbers flying around. when we talk about the 99.7% accuracy rate, that is the accuracy rate where the system is probably returning a response that an authorized workers authorized to work. in other words, the system recognizes when we check out the
9:43am
database, that this individual is properly authorized to work. that is what that accuracy rate represents. the second accuracy rate i talk about in my testimony is the 94% accuracy rate for unauthorized workers. that rate means that the system accurately returns a pnc and the ultimate became a final on confirmation for individuals that were not authorized to work so and other not -- an unauthorized worker was properly identified as not being authorized to work. on the 30% -- >> look -- [talking over each other] >> you're welcome to finish your answer as far as i am concerned. >> thank you so much. >> i am not used to people limiting themselves. that is what took me off guard. your welcome to answer. >> so the 30% there are many reasons that can happen. it has to do with how the name
9:44am
was in put it into the system, issues before because these are old statistics we're talking about when we talk about the 30%, how people hyphenated their names and that kind of thing. we actually and you may have seen it in the demo we added features in the system to provide for quality assurance, to remind employers to double check how they entered names in the system and guide them on how to enter that kind of information so we are working at addressing that kind of issue. we believe a lot of what you saw in that 30% figure which i believe came from the study from 2009 were based on those issues and those are corrections made. i don't have the figure in front of me but i could check to see if we have an updated number in that area. >> we need you for comprehensive immigration reform, we can't do it without e-verify. thank you. >> thank the gentleman from
9:45am
illinois, the chair will recognize the gentleman from idaho, mr. labrador. >> thanks for holding this important hearing. miss tulli, i am confused by your testimony. you give the example of u.s. navy captain and i understand how frustrating that can be, but i was an immigration attorney and had the experience of helping people who had false hits on e-verify ended his peaceable, you go to the social security office, show that your the person, show that you have a social security number and most of the time the mistake of because you transpose a number or something like that. i know you are using the extreme example, but isn't it true the majority is just a simple case that i am referring to? the great majority of them? >> for t n cs if this typically, you are correct, typically a
9:46am
worker has to go to a social security office and try and correct the error but that barry's worker to worker. as i mentioned before, how easy it is to get those social figure the office if you are working a low-wage job or two jobs and trying to correct that error can be incredibly difficult. >> i am having a hard time with your testimony because we want to get something done in congress, we want to get immigration reform done, i want to bipartisan solution and are you are throwing out his reasons we shouldn't have e-verify, reasons we have a problem with e-verify. you are saying that it has to be that you're not even sure e-verify should be part of a comprehensive immigration reform and i think advocates for immigration reform keep coming here and having problems with the enforcement mechanisms that we need to have in order to have a viable immigration system you are going to school any chance we have right now for
9:47am
comprehensive immigration reform and i really concerned about that. >> if i may respond i'm glad you're in just in working towards a solution on immigration -- >> i have been interested for 15 years. >> that is great to hear. in terms of the measures you're referring to outline, i know my written testimony is 12 pages, but we outlined the exact weeks in a program that we see are problematic now. >> somebody just ask you specifically if you believe that e-verify is part of the solution to -- part of the comprehensive need we have in congress to solve this problem and you couldn't answer that question. >> as i entered we have to know what the legalization portion -- >> the question is do you think e-verify is part of a comprehensive solution? >> my answer is we know that there are problems with e-verify now and we about one -- >> won't get to the question.
9:48am
do you think e-verify is a necessary part of a comprehensive solution? >> yes we do. >> miss correa, do you think e-verify ahead to 23 helps us have a comprehensive solution? >> i believe e-verify is an effective tool enabling employers to verify the employment eligibility of the individuals that they are hiring. >> miss tulli, when you said we needed to create penalties for people who misuse e-verify, what are you talking about? >> we are open to discussing what penalties. there is no meaningful penalties so we would love to work with your office. >> give me an example of put meaningful penalty. >> right now there are no penalties so any step in that direction is a good step. i don't have specific suggestions what those penalties should look like.
9:49am
>> you use the example of prescreening, 30% of employers are currently prescreening using a e-verify. where do you get that data? >> 2009. >> there have been problems with that study. isn't that true? >> what problems are you referring to? >> it says that it was done in 2009 and that number is based on studies from 2009 and some of the study has been questioned by some groups. >> i'm not aware significant question. is an independent evaluation of the program. >> one of the questions i have is 30%, how were people using e-verify for prescreening when they didn't have people's social security numbers? >> how reducing it for prescreening? presumably in the job application process employers were asking for the relevant data. >> isn't that a violation of the law? >> it is likely -- they are
9:50am
already violating the law. if there already violating the law there should be something already in place. if i use -- if i require somebody's social security number one i am employing them, before i employ them in the prescreening process i have violated the law, isn't that correct? >> what violation of the law you're referring to? >> you can't ask for social security number when you are asking for applications. >> i don't know if you're referring to a labor law or which lie you are referring to. it is not a violation, and the labor law that i am familiar with but we do know that an independent evaluation of the program function in 33% of employers were running workers through the program before they were ever hired. >> okay. thank you very much, mr. chairman. >> i thank the gentleman from idaho and i will recognize myself. i am not as good as a role on
9:51am
this lot and i am bad with numbers. i will try a number. 42% apparently, it has been alleged today, 42% of punitive employees who receive tnc are not notified. that you heard that statistic? >> i have heard that. >> how would they know that? >> the way the process works, the employer is required to notify the employee. >> where would the 42% come from? strikes me that will come from people sold reporting that they didn't receive something and that is not historically really valid way of determining things. >> i believe that 42% is possibly coming from the west study, i am not sure, that study is important to point out based on modeling, it is based on statistical modelling so it is
9:52am
not an accurate look, i should say accurate, not looking at the data contained in the system. what i can share with you is first of all we are not seeing that pattern. we are not seeing that kind of number. our monitoring and compliance branch is watching the system, watching how employers use the system. one of the indicators we have out there is when the employer prints the tnc because they are required to print the tnc to discuss with the employee. the other indicators the referral degenerated by the system. i don't believe that 42% exist. >> me either. that was my point. >> i know -- >> historically people do not always at least in my previous job historically people do not always self identify correctly, hence we have here is a rules where people can't say certain things because it is not inherently reliable.
9:53am
to the extent it does happen what tools can we give you to make sure it happens less? whether it is 42 or 14 hours and we help you make sure happens less frequently? >> thank you for that question. i want to clarify something. in our monitoring and compliance activities what we are seeing is the first step in monitoring compliance is if you see any behavior that is inappropriate we send an e-mail to the employer, we contact them. typically within 90 days we will follow-up. we are not seeing that. we are seeing that the employers are taking corrective action but if the employer doesn't take corrective action we follow up with things such as site visits because we certainly want to make sure people are properly using the system. i also want to talk if i may, address the issue of penalties because i don't want folks to think that we are not monitoring the system or not referring cases. that is not true. fiscal year 2012 we referred 24
9:54am
cases to ice for further investigation and 51 cases to the office of special counsel for unfair employment practices. we knew if we see behavior that is inappropriate on the part of any employer we are referring cases. we use monitoring the system, very robust to follow through. we continue to train people and provide the right tools and inform the employees. one of the things we're working on is an enhancement to the system, if they provide their e-mail address on v i 94 and the employer in the system we will e-mail the employee so that they are aware of the pnc, to minimize the likelihood that an employee would not know about the n c. i would like to add one more fact that an employee addressing the issue of getting social security office, an employee has eight days to address the issue. if they contact as we put the
9:55am
case in a pending status and notify the employer because our goal is to make sure we address a mismatch. if there's a mismatch in the system we want to make sure the problem is properly authorized. >> i will say this. in conclusion before i asked mr. johnson acquistion, anyone who wants the job and develop oil and qualified to have one, we all want a 0% error rate and i know you do too. we had a hearing the same day on drones and they don't have 100% get it right rate and i am not minimizing the consequences of your 0.3 error rates. that is pretty good. like i say, another one of your sister agencies doesn't add at 100% right when it comes to
9:56am
drones. 76% of the employers say there is no cost to implementing e-verify. is that right? [inaudible] >> 76%? my figure -- i would say i have a labor relations committee and immigration subcommittee and a special task force on this issue. the feedback from our employers was -- i will say it was a mathematical sample across the country which the system works quite well with very little hassle. >> i was talking startup costs, 76% say zero in terms of start up. >> the study as a scientist and we had economists look at this, extrapolated from the 24% of businesses that reported some cost and a national calculation
9:57am
but ignored the fact that 76 this and the businesses reported zero costs. when you have a number of businesses reporting law will cost and is reporting zero, there's something odd going on in the reporting. i can't identify what exactly it was in the study. all i can tell you is where the rubber meets the road, my membership, they see this as a sustainable burden and part of their deal in moving the country forward on immigration reform. >> to use e-verify is free. you need a smart phone or computer rant internet access and the -- to do something to join organization are what? >> that is -- >> confidential? would you be willing to give a voucher exchange for buying a smart phone? >> small businesses get a great deal. >> i am kidding with you. you don't have to answer that. it is free and accessible to the
9:58am
smart phone, internet access, i am curious where that $2 billion figure came from. with that my time has expired. on behalf of chairman goodlatte and everyone, thank you. we apologize again for the delay with votes but you have been very helpful, very informative, we appreciate your collegiality both with the subcommittee and the other and with that, we are adjourned. [inaudible conversations]
9:59am
[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the u.s. senate is about to gavel in to begin the day. senators may consider a pair of bills designed to replace the automatic spending cuts that due to go into effect tomorrow known as the sequester.
10:00am
it is likely we will see procedural vote on those measures, 1 offered by democrats and another by republicans. sometime later this afternoon, that will get underway. now live to the senate floor on c-span2. the presiding officer: the senate will come to order. the chaplain, dr. barry black, will lead the senate in prayer. the chaplain: let us pray. you, o god, are a shield for america. because of your mercy and power,
10:01am
we lift our heads with optimism. when we cry aloud to you during our moments of exasperation, you answer us from your holy mountain. as we anticipate and -- as we anticipate an across-the-board budget cuts across our land, we still expect to see your goodness prevail. we remain unafraid of what the future holds because you have promised to never leave or forsake us. rise up, o god, and save us from ourselves. pour your wisdom upon our lawmakers so that they will do
10:02am
your will. we pray in your holy name. amen. the presiding officer: please join me in reciting the pledge of allegiance to the flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag of the united states of america and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. the presiding officer: the clerk will read a communication to the senate. the clerk: washington, d.c february 28, 2013. to the senate: under the provisions of rule 1, paragraph 3, of the standing rules of the senate, i hereby appoint the honorable brian schatz, a senator from the state of hawaii, to perform the duties
10:03am
of the chair. signed: patrick j. leahy, president pro tempore. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: following any leader remarks, the senate will be in a period of morning business for on hour. the republicans will control the first half, the majority the final half. following that, the senate resume consideration of the american family economic protection act. at a time to be derld today, there will be two cloture votes on motions to proceed to s. 388 and s. 16, which is the democratic and the republican sequestration bills. senators will be notified when the votes are scheduled. i have worked that out with senator mcconnell. mr. president, today the senate says goodbye to a valued and accomplished staff member, rick dubobies, who is retiring after 10 years of staff director for senator levin on the armed services committee of the rick came to the senator more than two decades ago after a distinguished 26-year career as
10:04am
a judge advocate in the navy. he spent his entire capitol hill career with the same committee, that committee being the armed services committee. a rare occurrence in the senate, he worked first for chairman sam nunn and then chairman carl levin. for the last decade rick as led the committee's oversight of two of our longest-running wars ever -- iraq and afghanistan. working to reward the dedication of the military personnel and their families. under chairman levin's guiding hand, he has also filled the ranks of the armed services committee staff with the next generation of national security professionals. his expertise, integrity, and commitment to public service will be missed by democrats, republicans, and our country. and on behalf of the senate community, i thank him for his service and wish him well in his retirement. mr. president, his departure from the senate armed services committee comes during a trying time for our nation's micialghtr
10:05am
nation's military, as deep across-the-board cut cuts are so strike, set to strike hundreds of thousands of civilian employees. families and businesses are also bracing for the plan for deep cuts to programs that keep our food safe and water clean and borders secure. it is not too late to avert these damaging cuts, cuts to for which the overwhelming majority of republicans in both houses voted for. we believe we have a balanced plan, fully paid for. our proposal would reduce the deficit by making smart spending cuts. it would also close wasteful tax loopholes that allow companies that outsource companies to china or india. they would no longer be able to claim tax deductions for doing so . our plan would stop wasteful subsidies to farmers, some of whom don't even farm anymore.
10:06am
mr. president, there are some farmers who grew rice decades ago who now have subbriggses on their old -- subdivisions on their old rice patties, or strip malls. they can still get payments from the federal government for growing rice they don't grow. that -- chairman stabenow has led the efforts to mik make sure that won't happen anymore. that's part of our legislation. and that would help reduce -- and it would ask the wealthiest among us -- for example, mr. president, if you make $5 million a year, our legislation would say, if you make $5 million a year, you have to pay a minimum of 30% in taxes. i don't think that's too outrageous. it's called the buffett rule because this multibillionaire said that he should pay as much in taxes as his secretary.
10:07am
which he doesn't. and this legislation would make it more fair in that regard. almost 60% of republicans around the country, mr. president, favor this balanced approach: revenue from the richest of the rich and continuing with government cuts. but this proposition would ask millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations to contribute a tiny fraction more. everybody agrees -- republicans around the country, about 80% of american people agree it is about the right thing to do. about 60% of republicans around the country agree it is the right thing to do. the only republicans that don't agree are mows tha those that sn congress. republicans in congress are going after our proposal because it goes after their special interests. now, after days of infighting, senate republicans announce their plan. instead of replacing the pain of
10:08am
sequester with something smarter and more responsible, the plan of theirs would embrace these devastating cuts, while abandoning one -- any of the responsibility that goes along with them. mr. president, one of the senators in our caucus we had on tuesday said the republican plan that we thought was coming -- and it did -- would be like you're told you have to have three fingers cut off and their proposal is to send this to the president and have him decide which finger is going to go first. republicans call the plan flexibility. let's call it what it is. it is a punt. they're punting. as president obama said yesterday, it would simply raise the question "do you end funding that helps disabled children or poor children? do i close this naval shipyard or that one?"
10:09am
it is not a solution and even members of the republican caucus have questioned this proposal, and they've said so publicly. and, mr. president, why would they -- the republicans, part of the legislative branch of government -- cede more power to the white house? republicans should give congress true flexibility, flexibility to cut wasteful subsidies, flexibility to close down necessary tax hoo loopholes, and flexibility to ask the richest of the rich to contribute a little bit more. instead, they've completely become inflexible insisting we risk hundreds of thousands of american jobs as well as programs that strengthen families and small businesses across the nation. but that should, mr. president, i'm sorry to say, come as no surprise. as usual, the republicans have put the demands of special interests -- the richest of the rich, people making up to $5 million a year, not being asked to contribute 30% of what they
10:10am
make. these interests that they're protecting are being protected over the needs of the american people, especially the middle class. would the chair announce the business of the day? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the leadership time is reserved. under the previous order, the senate will be in a period of morning business for one hour with senators permitted to speak therein for up to ten minutes each with the time equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees, with the republicans controlling the first half.
10:11am
the presiding officer: the republican whip. corn cormr. cornyn: mr. preside,
10:12am
here we are again on the eve of this administration's manufactured crisis. tomorrow, as we all know, the sequester will go into effect. if we believe the majority leader and if we believe the president and his cabinet, this will be devastation for our economy and for our country. but i would suggest that the majority leader, the president, and his cabinet put down the beltway kool-aid because they are predicting a disaster that will not occur. but let's put responsibility where it really lies. the sequester was the president's idea in the first place. as much as he and his press secretary and staff try to deny it, the fact of the matter is, bob woodward has made the point that they told him that it was their idea, as he wrote in his most recent book. the white house proposed it to congress, and the president
10:13am
signed it into law on august 2, 2011. in the year and a half since the budget control act became the law of the land, the president has done virtually nothing -- nothing -- about it. he has ignored it. he suggested during the presidential campaign that the sequester would not happen. and it was as if he tried to just simply wish it away. certainly we know one thing, and that is neither the president nor his cabinet nor the defense department nor any part of his administration has done anything to plan for it -- no planning whatsoever, which, of course, makes the implementation more challenging, to be sure. at times the president has pretended the sequester didn't even exist, even though he signed it into law.
10:14am
like when the department of labor notified government contractors that they didn't have to abide by another federal law called the warren act, which requires them to notify their -- called the warn act, which requires them to notify their potentiaemployees of a potential layoffs. those noticed would have gone out five days before the last election. to be sure, there's bipartisan consensus that the sequester is hamfisted. it's across-the-board cuts don't amount to smart budgettings. but what would we expect after nearly four years of no budgeting? what i mean by that, as this chart reflects, it's been 1,401 days since the senate has passed a budget under democrat control.
10:15am
this is a shameful record and one that needs to be rectified as soon as possible. we're now told that the president himself has missed the statutory deadline for sending his proposed budget for this year over, which was february 4, and now they're saying we may not get it until after we've had to act ourselves on a budget. so they're predicting it's roughly seven weeks late. will be. well, no one could argue, i think, with a straight face, contrary to the doom and gloom and the apocalyptic predictions, nobody could argue with a straight face that 2.4% cuts from a $3.6 trillion anticipated annual spending amounts to devastation or the end of western civilization or whatever sort of apocalyptic terms you
10:16am
want to use. so let's look at what 2.4% cuts would mean to the average american family. well, if you use 100 gallons of gasoline to run your car every month and you had to cut that back by 2.4%, that means you'd be able to use 97.6 gallons of gas. if you have a $250 a month grocery budget, you need to find $6 in savings. and on a monthly utility bill of let's say $175, you'd have to trim it down by $4.20. mr. president, these are the kinds of cuts that the american people have had to make for themselves during the recession of 2008 and due to slow growth and high unemployment since then. yet, president obama is either unwilling or unable to propose similar cuts to replace the
10:17am
sequester. if he doesn't like it, let's have his proposal for how he would fix it since he signed it into law. instead what we get is proposals that we'll vote on this afternoon from our friends across the aisle that would just raise more taxes after one of the largest tax increases in american history as a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations just late in december. so the president is content to push through more spending to grow the size of government not withstanding the fact that the federal government is now spending more money than it ever has as a percentage of our economy. and we have $16.5 trillion in debt. we have important programs like medicare and social security that are unsustainable unless congress and the president act on a bipartisan basis. this is not a mystery. this is not something that republicans know that democrats don't know.
10:18am
we all know it. and the president knows it, because his own bipartisan fiscal commission told him in december 2010. well, according to the congressional budget office, the white house-backed bill offered by our senate democrat friends to replace the sequester would actually raise the deficit this year by tens of billions of dollars. you may be wondering about that, thinking that the sequester was supposed to cut spending. but actually the proposal made by our friends across the aisle would actually raise the deficit this year by tens of billions of dollars. not exactly what i would call progress. it's absolutely ludicrous, especially when we consider that even with the sequester, spending will still be higher this year than it was last year by the federal government. let me repeat that in case people weren't listening. even with the spending cuts mandated by the sequestration --
10:19am
$85 billion in cuts -- this administration will still have more money to spend this year than they did last year. hard to see how that would wreak devastation. and, yet last year we didn't see planes falling out of the sky. we didn't see empty super market shelves for lack of safe food, nor did we see the national parks shutting their front gates. we didn't see any of the doomsday scenarios that the president and his cabinet are now warning about. after a year and a half of doing nothing. of course the president talks endlessly, it seems, of the need for a so-called balanced approach. he got his pound of flesh. he got his $600 billion in additional tax revenue from the american people. so where is the balance to that, when all he proposes and his party proposes is more taxes and more spending?
10:20am
that's not balanced. now is the time to cut spending. that is the only way forward, and that is the only way to begin with one small step to return our country to sound fiscal footing. mr. president, i yield the floor.
10:21am
10:22am
mr. mcconnell: mr. president? the presiding officer: the republican leader. mr. mcconnell: earlier this year the democrats who run washington promised america things would be different under a reelected president obama. instead of politics, they'd focus on policy. instead of leaving everything until the last minute, they'd get the people's work done ahead of time for a change and through the regular order. well, those promises didn't last very long. later this afternoon, less than 24 hours before the president's sequester proposal takes effect, we will vote on a senate democratic plan that does more to perpetuate the culture of
10:23am
irresponsibility around here than it does to fix a culture of spending that washington democrats claim to be concerned about. point of fact: not only would their legislation fail to fix the spending problem facing our country but actually add billions more to the deficit. in other words, it isn't a plan at all. it's a gimmick. top democrats already concede it will never garner enough votes to pass the very legislative body they control, much less the house. but let's be very clear for the president and for his allies, that's really the whole point. they want it to fail so they can go around the country blaming republicans for a sequester the president himself proposed. in fact, they are so concerned about preventing anything from actually passing the congress that they limited the ability of senators on both sides to debate the issue openly and offer
10:24am
different ideas. for instance, senators ayotte and paul introduced bills that deserve our consideration. and there are others too. senator collins has been working on a proposal and senator whitehouse has a plan that would replace the sequester with a series of huge tax hikes. i don't support that approach, but his legislation at least merits a vote. republicans will get just one chance to offer a bill, and i'll discuss that legislation a little later in my remarks. but if the president's sequester is going to be as horrible as washington democrats have proposed, shouldn't we spend more than just a few hours -- just a few hours -- debating it? is this really the best senate democrats can do? as for the president, he too has yet to put forward a serious plan that could pass either the house or the democratic-controlled senate. and he's refused to engage in substantive discussions with
10:25am
congressional leaders. this week he finally invited speaker boehner and me to discuss the sequester. that's tomorrow, the day it takes effect. in short, instead of changing, as they promised, washington democrats are just turning back to the same old campaign-first strategy they've kphroeud literally now -- employed literally now for years. now the president is ready to make the sequester bite as hard as possible, all to send a simple message to the public. you want to control washington spending, america? fine. let me show you how much i can make it hurt. that's the president's strategy. let me show you how much i can make it hurt. instead of directing his cabinet secretaries to trim waste in their departments, he's going after first responders and teachers and almost any other sympathetic constituency you can
10:26am
think of. and he'll arbitrarily close parks and monuments too, all to force americans to accept higher taxes. and he'll claim his hands are tied. he'll say he has no choice but to release criminals into the streets and to withhold vaccination s from poor children and somehow it will be everybody's fault but his. nonsense. look, our country has a spending problem, a pretty massive one. most of us in the chamber at least acknowledge that fact. but we can either address the problem in a smart way or we can do it in the way he's proposed. and that's what the toomey-inhofe legislation we'll vote on this afternoon is all about. it's about giving agency heads greater flexibility to ensure sequester cuts are implemented in a smarter way. some have raised concerns this will give the administration too
10:27am
much power, that the president will use the authority to punish his critics. i certainly understand those concerns. but the goal here is twofold. one, to make sure the american people get the same amount of spending cuts that were promised to them in 2011. and, two, to guarantee some accountability on the president's parts so that those cuts are administered in a more intelligent way. you'd think the president would welcome a proposal like ours. given his complaints and those of his cabinet secretaries about their hands being tied on cuts, you'd think he'd be banging on our doors demanding flexibility. but now get this: he's complaining that having extra authority might mean he'd actually have to choose which programs to preserve and which ones to cut. that he'd have to prioritize spending within the federal government. well, with due respect, mr. president, i think a lot of
10:28am
people who voted for you think that's your job to make those tough decisions, especially tough decisions to implement the plan you yourself proposed and insisted upon. surely you can find a little more than 2% to cut from the federal budget. and surely you can do it without raining down a phony armageddon on american families. they had to find ways to cope with the 2% less than their paychecks just last month after the payroll tax went back up. why in the world can't washington? look, the american people will simply not accept replacing spending cuts agreed to by both parties with tax hikes. and i plan to make all of this clear to the president when i meet with him tomorrow. he already got hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue earlier this year when
10:29am
the tax law expired. now it's time for the balanced part of the equation, and that means keeping our promise to reduce spending. so the time for games is over. no more protecting waste and prone promises at the expense of those who actually intervene government help. the american -- who actually need government help. the american people were promised more spending control and republicans are going to help them see that that promise is fulfilled, and in the smartest way possible. i yield the floor. a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from missouri. mr. blunt: i rise today to talk about a disappointing milestone we passed yesterday. yesterday was the 1,400th day since the senate passed a federal budget. 1,400 days. so i guess today is the first day moving toward 1,500 days.
10:30am
but yesterday was the 1,400th day. it's been said, mr. president, and i know i've said it on this floor, that failing to plan is planning to fail. if you don't have any idea where you're going, you're not likely to get where you had a he like to be. when it comes to our budgetary future, the strategy of the majority has been just not to deal with it. last summer the vice president, joe biden, challenged -- said, show me your budget, and i'll tell you what you value. now, why the vice president would have said that i really don't know. a president's budget that's arrived late and been dead on arrival, apparently every time it's arrived in the last four years, and a senate majority of the vice president's party that hasn't passed a budget -- why the vice president would have said, show me your budget, and i'll tell you what you value,
10:31am
why know. i like the vice president a lot, personally. i don't know why he said what he said. but this comment really does raise a question about why we're not willing to talk about the things we want to achieve as a government. nearly four years have passed since we have had any kind of blueprint. i'm told that when we talk about a budget in washington, apparently there were no political consequences because the majority was rewarded with the majority again, even though if there was one comment that was made over and over again in that campaigners i.t. been three -- in that campaign, it's been three years since there's been a bucket. now we'r-- budget. now it's been four years. we've seen the government lump from crisis to -- we've seen the government lurch from crisis to crisis. i couldn't imagine in november and december why we'd want to start a new year with the things
10:32am
before us that were before us then. this could have been handled at that time as easily as it could be handled now. but part of it senior senator failure to plan. since the senate, controlled for sometime now by democrats, passed a budget in april of 2009, lots of things have happened. four years ago nobody in america had an ipad yet because ipad padds hasn't been invented yesterday. nobody knows somebody that doesn't have an ipad, if they don't have one themselves. instinstagram didn't even existr years ago. the federal debt four years ago was less than $12 trillion. now it's $16.6 trillion. lebron james was still a cleveland cavalier the last time the senate passed a budget.
10:33am
obamacare -- and the president in the presidential campaign said you liked that term. i now think he might not like it as well now that people find more about it. but it wasn't the law yet. the oprah show was still on the air. nasa had not announced yet that we were done with the space shuttle missions. prince william and kate middleton weren't engaged. and brent favre still played for the nfl. lots of things have happened in the last four years, but the one thing that hasn't happened is the senate hasn't passed a budget. republicans in the house have voted for -- drawn up and voted for budgets, and we've figured out ways occasionally to have a budget vote. but the president's budget would get no vote. there was no senate majority budget to vote on. and i look forward to seeing that budget on the floor.
10:34am
you know, i was glad to vote in the -- just a few weeks ago on the bill that said if we don't have a budget, we don't get paid. because if we don't have a budget, we don't have the fundamental tool it takes to have the other debates on the appropriations bills. people deserve a senate that has a budget, is willing to put it out there, that then is willing to have the debates on appropriations bills we need to have. it's been 15 months since we had an appropriations bill on the senate floor. so we haven't -- we just have failed to do the work, and that leads us from one needless crisis to another. now the crisis, of course, is the sequestration deadline. if you listen to the administration, you'd assume that this is the last day that it's safe to go outside. that starting tomorrow terrible things are going to happen. i just heard our leader, the
10:35am
republican leader, talk about our willingness to give the president of the other party more ability to direct these cuts in specific ways. but not forever. we need to take that responsibility back ourselves and appropriate the money that's going to be spent october 1, but between now and september 30, we're -- we need to make these reductions in the best way rather than the worst way. you know, the appropriations committee that i'm at ranking republican on has agriculture in it. one thing i'm going to ask the department is, what employees are supposed to show up on those days that are so dangerous that you say, only the critical employees need to be here? and if they're supposed to be here in bad weather, why wouldn't they be here now? why would you cut the employee -- the federal employee who has to show up at a food processing facility for anybody else to
10:36am
work and have somebody in an office somewhere doing something that could be done the next day, that's just dependent on them? if i was the president, i'd want to not be answering, why did you cut this and not cut that? that? recently the president had a series of press conferences. he embarked on a 100-city tour to warn americans of the sequester. he showed up at norfolk news -- or newport news, rather, in virginia. almost exactly one year after three of my colleagues were down there, senator graham, senator ayotte and senator mccain, saying in a year there is going to be a big problem. a year later the president shows up and says this is going to be a big problem. you know, the president proposed the sequester in 2011. he insisted that it become law. he even threatened to veto a bill.
10:37am
he said, i'll veto any bill to replace the sequester, late last year. and suddenly now he's changed his mind and all of these terrible things going to happen, and it's unavoidable. it's only unavoidable if we refuse to cut things that can be couple of the federal government has grown 19% in its spending in the last four years. the sequester would cut 2.4% or 2.5%. anybody in america whose budget has grown 19% in the last two years can go back now to where they were the last four years, rather, can go back mao to where they were three or four years ago but to where they were a few months ago and get your spending level back to that. this is a budget that has grown in a tremendous way but now is suddenly uncuttable. we can't begin to get by with the money we were spending six or nine or 12 months ago.
10:38am
nobody believes that. and if we want to have this discussion, that's fine with me. these spending cuts need to happen. they should happen. and they should happen in the right way. this is noting about t not goind by campaign appearances all over the country. it is going to be solved by good management to reach reasonable goals. the federal - accounting office has identified 51 areas where programs are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping. 51 areas. now, why don't we deal with that? that's the executive's responsibility to say, here's how we're going to eliminate these programs that the government accounting office has said are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping. otherwise i guess we're committed to keep the programs that are inefficient, ineffective, and overlapping and spend billions of dollars of taxpayers' money. those would include things like
10:39am
the 180 economic development programs operating in five different cabinet agencies. now, i'm for economic development. i'm for opportunity and jobs, but do we need 180 different programs in five different agencies? or do we need -- divide 180 by five. do each of those agencies need an average of that many programs? there are programs to promote science, technology, engineering and math education. not a bad goal. but does it take 173 programs in 13 agencies to do it? 20 agencies oversee more than 50 financial literacy programs. more than 50 programs across four departments are there to support entrepreneurs. you know, private-sector job creation should be the number-one domestic goal of the country today, but do you need 50 programs in four departments
10:40am
to encourage entrepreneurial skills? probably not. so why don't we hear about that instead of the air traffic controllers and the highway engineers and the meat plant inspectors and the head start teachers. why -- why don't we hear about these programs that we all know are ready to be made more efficient orb in some cases just simply the way to make them more effective to eliminate those programs. there are 4 job-training programs in nine agencies that cost $18 billion in fiscal year 2009. i don't have a number -- we actually don't have a budget much newer than that. but z 18 billion for 47 job-training programs in nine agencies. the g.a.o. found at least 37 duplicating investments in information technology.
10:41am
that was $1.2 billion over five years. 14 programs to administer grants to reduce diesel emissions across three departments. this is not 14 programs to administer grants and loans. this is 14 programs to administer grants and loans to reduce diesel emissions. i'm for reducing diesel emissions. i'm even for the federal government paying some attention to whether that's being done or not. but do we need 14 programs in three different agencies to do it? acrosacross-the-board cutting, h is what sequester means -- it means we couldn't get to the number because we didn't have a budget, we didn't appropriate any bills. we couldn't get to the number that the law requires us to not exceed in our spending, and so the cure for that is to cut every line-item in the discretionary spending part of
10:42am
the budget, the part that defends the country that part that builds hoirks th builds hit that administers most education needneeds that the federal government is sophisticated in. that's what -- that the federal government is involved in. that's what sequester is. and we can do better. the department of defense has spent more than $67 billion in the last ten years on non-defense spending. probably somebody better thank the department of defense to -- better than the department of defense to do the non-defense work. the department of weatherization programs has received $5 billion in stimulus funds -- $5 billion in stimulus funds -- exhibited a failure rate of 80%. that stimulus program really worked out well. here's an 80% failure rate in energy weatherization. the f.a.a., the federal aviation administration, the one that my friend, the secretary of transportation, who i served with in the house, said that
10:43am
we'd have to eliminate air traffic controllers. they spent $5 million -- $500 million each year on consultants. could be that it's more important that the air traffic controller shows up than that the consultant shows up. i've got a list here that i'm going to submit, mr. president, on this, because the list literally goes on and on. the internal revenue service stored 22,486 items of unused furniture in a warehouse for an annual cost of $862,000. we'll have this discussion of why cut that instead of this, if we want to, but my side is willing to give the president authority between now and the end of this haphazardly put together appropriating year to target cuts so that those of us in the senate can appropriate the money for next year's
10:44am
spending. we ought to be moving right now -- we shouldn't be having this debate at all today. we should be having a debate on the budget to have it done by april 15 so the appropriations committee can begin to do its work and we can find what needs to happen here. it's a good time to ask the question, is this a job for the government? and if the answer is "yes," the second question is, is the federal government the best of all governments to solve this problem, or is there some government closer to people and closer to the problem that can solve it in a better way? two things i want to submit for the record, as i close my remarks here, mr. president. one is a july 31, 2012, member low to agencies from -- member know agencies from the office of management and budget that says, "agencies should continue normal spending operations since there are more than five months that
10:45am
remain for congress to act." on september 28, the same management organization, the office management and budget, under the executive office of the president, sends another memo out that says, "agencies should continue normal spending and operations as instructed in the july 31 memo from the office of management and budget to executive departments and agencies which address operational and other issues raised by the potential of january 2 sequestration." so the new spending year is about to begin in two days -- in two days after this goes out, and the direction from the white house is, business as usual, full speed ahead, spend money just like you are, don't bother with that law that says that beginning in january 1 we have to spend less money. well, we'rg to spend less money, i'm
10:46am
convinced. i'm prepared to work with the president to see that we do that in the smartest possible way, but we have to get our spending under control. and i look forward to seeing the senate do its job first with the budget and then a bill to debate how we spend our money and what we spend our money on. the presiding officer: time is yielded back. mr. durbin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority whip. mr. durbin: mr. president, i rise to speak in morning business. this afternoon we'll have a vote on the floor of the senate. it's an important vote because tomorrow is the first day of sequestration. the american people are learning new terminology thanks to congressmen and politicians. fiscal cliff meant nothing to most americans six months ago, but by new year's eve many
10:47am
understood that something serious was about to occur. in fact, laws have been passed, which meant that the taxes would go up on virtually every tax-paying american on january 1 if congress failed to act. that was the fiscal cliff. and so we reached a last-minute agreement on ways to avert that happening and to make sure any tax increases on the income tax side were going to be exclusively applying to those in the highest income categories. well, the americans breathed a sigh of relief and thank goodness that emergency is over. but we are good in washington at manufacturing crises, and now we are in a new crisis of our own creation. this is not some act of god, some natural event, some occurrence that we have no control over. we created this. we created something called sequestration, and here's what it was all about. the president sat down with the leaders in congress. it goes back over a year now; and said we need to do something about our deficit, but let's do
10:48am
it in a bipartisan way and a balanced way. let's put together a super committee, equal numbers of democrats and republicans, and let's reach an agreement once and for all. stop bickering. reach an agreement. and let's reduce the deficit as a result of that agreement. but, he said, just to make sure that you take it seriously, if you don't reach an agreement, then as of this year -- 2013 -- we're going to have automatic spending cuts called sequestration. and the sequestration cuts are not going to be very kind. they're going to be across-the-board cuts by each line-item of the budget. so to avoid that, do the right thing. reach a bipartisan agreement in the super committee. and we failed. we failed when the republicans of the committee said no revenue, no taxes. sorry. we'll just talk about spending cuts and cutting medicare. that's all we're interested in talking about. end of story.
10:49am
end of super committee. welcome to the world of sequestration. the threat that was supposed to make the super committee act is now about to become the reality. and the reality means that in the remainder of this year, we do fiscal years, not calendar years, between now and september 30 we need to cut $85 billion in spending, half of it on the defense side and half on the non-defense side. you might say come on, this is a big government, and it's a big budget. and you're telling me $85 billion is a problem? i have to agree with the senator from missouri, the republican senator blunt, who was here a moment ago, there's plenty of areas to save in the federal government. i'll speak to a few in a moment here. but we don't really create an opportunity for that kind of thoughtful discussion and decision-making. instead it's automatic. it just happens. what's wrong with just cutting every line in the budget by a certain percentage. well, let's take it home. let's talk about american
10:50am
families. let's assume that family has just learned that next year, due to circumstances beyond our control, they're going to be making $500 less each month. somebody lost a job in the family or something like that. they look at the family budget, and they say we're going to have to tighten up thaoeurpbgz and make some -- things and make hard choices. someone else at the family table says you don't have to do that. what we should do, $500 is maybe 5% of what we take home in pay. let's cut everything that we spend by 5%. that way we'll be able to reach that $500 mark. and you stop and think about it for a minute and you say that doesn't make sense at all. we're going to cut our mortgage payment by 5%? we can't just do that. we'll default on our mortgage. we'll lose our home. we're going to cut our utility payment by 5%? they'll turn off the lights. we can't cut the prescription drugs by 5%. we need that medicine to keep our children healthy.
10:51am
we've got to look at a more thoughtful way. let's look at parts of where we spend money that we can afford to cut. that's how families budget. that's how the government should budget. but sequestration doesn't budget cut that way. it cuts it by each line-item: the mortgage, the utility bill, the prescription drugs all cut the same. that's what we face starting tomorrow. well, there are ways to avoid that. most important opportunity will come tomorrow afternoon. president obama is bringing the congressional leaders, house and senate, democrats and republicans, all four together for a meeting in the white house. let's hope cooler heads prevail. once again, we're at the deadline. once again the american people are looking to us and wondering what's going to happen. what's at stake here? there are several things at stake. one of the things at stake is that these cuts in many agencies are going to be unreasonable. unreasonable because they have to be done in a matter of five
10:52am
or six months. i'm chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee. it means most of the civilian employees who work for the department of defense are going to lose one day's pay each week. 20% cut in pay between now and the end of the year. that's a hardship on some families. and don't believe that these are fat-cat federal employees. many of them are just struggling families doing jobs in our department of defense that are critical for our nation's security. they range across the board from some of the most sophisticated decision making to keep us safe as a nation to the more basics of keeping the lights on in the buildings where these decisions are made. and they're going to see this kind of furlough reduction in pay and, unfortunately, reduction in productivity because of it. that's not good. other things are going to happen because of it. when you lay off the workers at
10:53am
a depot who repair a ship, it means the ship that was in for repairs has to stay there longer. it can't go out and protect america. last week i was in a place called bahrain. bahrain, an island in the persian gulf, is a critical front in america's national defense. the fifth fleet is there. what a magnificent group of individuals. admiral john miller took me around on the ships and introduced me to the men and women in uniform. couldn't have been prouder as an american to say hello to these people who were literally giving their lives, risking their lives for our country. how are they protected while we're out there? we have a great aircraft carrier while they're out there. it's there if needed. it's only one of the two carriers that are supposed to be there. the u.s.s. truman was supposed to go out and join the other carrier to protect our troops and our interest in the persian
10:54am
gulf. but it won't be there. why? because sequestration cut the jobs at the depot in the shipyard to repair the truman. the truman is sitting in that yard waiting for repairs because of sequestration, and our sailors, our men and women in uniform are out in the persian gulf literally in a much riskier situation because of it. so when you talk about how easy it is to cut spending in government, it can be easy if we do it in a thoughtful way. the second point i'd like to make is that it isn't just a matter of where we cut or how we cut, it's a matter of this process. we've been told by the people who give a credit rating to the united states of america that what's been happening for the last two years has not gone unnoticed. think about your own family situation again. if you're late in paying bills, what happens? your credit rating goes down. then you turn around to borrow
10:55am
some money -- you name it, an installment loan for a car, for a home -- and they look at your credit rating, don't they? and they say you're not the most reliable person in paying your bills. your credit rating is lower. therefore, your interest rate that you pay will be higher. the same thing applies to the government. over the last two years this strategy that's been hitting us, that has said we've got to lurch from one threatened government shutdown to a shutdown of the economy over the debt ceiling to the fiscal cliff to the sequestration has taken its toll on america's credit rating. and so the ratings agencies are saying we're not quite sure -- it's a great nation; don't get me wrong, and a great economy. but it isn't a great bunch of politicians in washington when it comes to making decisions that help this nation. therefore, we're going to have an uptick in the interest rate paid by america to borrow money. that means we'll be paying more in interest, more taxpayers' dollars in interest to those who
10:56am
loan us money, like china, and less in goods and services to serve america. now they told us again, you go into sequestration, you get into another hopeless political tangle as you have over the last two years, you run the risk that america's credit rating is going to be downgraded, its interest rates are going to go up and kids are going to owe more on the national debt. that's what's at stake. this afternoon we'll make a proposal which not a single republican will vote for. it is a proposal, we look at one of the most wasteful areas of spending and eliminate it. here's what it is. it applies to my state of illinois. direct payments to farmers. i don't know why we did this. there probably was some logic at some point in time. but in the last farm bill we said we will give direct support payments to farmers whether they make money or lose money. sometimes we'll give them the direct support payments whether
10:57am
they grow a crop or don't grow it. does that make sense? i don't think it does. we said for a long time, 70 years plus, the u.s. government will be there when the farmers need it, when they need a helping hand. i understand that. farming is a risky business. but direct support payments aren't working on that basic principle. they make a payment regardless. so senator stabenow of michigan, when she wrote the new farm bill, said i'm eliminating direct support payments. it saves $25 billion over five years. $25 billion. and we've got 64 senators. that would be about a dozen republicans, to join us in passing it, in the farm bill. they agreed. and the farm groups agreed that they could no longer defend direct support payments. just couldn't defend it in a time we have so many deficits. so we say this afternoon, since the farm bill couldn't pass the house -- they were unable to pass the farm bill. i don't know why, but they couldn't. we're going to take that savings from the direct support payments
10:58am
and use that to defer some of the cuts that would otherwise occur in sequestration. i think it's pretty sensible. but we're going to find out if a single republican will vote for t. they can come to the floor and list all the places to save money and they'll get a chance tonight floor this afternoon to save $25 billion on something the farmers agree with and farm organizations support and many of them voted for; not one will vote for it. i predict, not one. it's a sad situation. let me tell you one other that they ought to think about. for-profit schools. you know who they are? well, if you have a child, son or daughter in high school, you'll know them soon because they are inundating your son and daughter with invitations to come join our university. let me give you some of the biggest names in the for-profit school industry: university of phoenix. ever heard of it? the combined enrollment of the university of phoenix is more than the combined enrollment of the big ten. that big. the second largest one i believe
10:59am
is devry out of chicago. then comes kaplan, career education corporation. these are private companies that purportedly educate students. some do, most don't. if you want to know about the for-profit colleges in america, you should remember three numbers. the first number: 12. 12% of automatic high school graduates in america go to for-profit schools. the ones i mentioned and others. 12%. next number: 25. 25% of all the federal aid to education goes to these schools. 12% of the students, 25% of the aid to education. well, how much is that? how about $32 billion a year go to these schools? federal taxpayers dollars. if you took the $32 billion going to for-profit schools and translated it into a federal agency, it would be the ninth
11:00am
largest federal agency in washington. $32 billion to these schools. but hang on for the third number. the third number is 47. 12, 25, 47. 47% of all the student loan defaults occur among students who are going to these for-profit schools. what does that tell you? they're getting too deeply in debt. they can't finish school, and they can't find a job. what a waste. they end up with debt and mog to show for it -- and nothing to show for it. the schools end up with the money. the students and their families end up with the debt. let kneel you one of these -- let me tell you one of these stories of one of these students. i have invited them to come tell me of their stories at my web site and many of them have. tabatha, they promised her a great future with a paying job. what she ended up with -- what she ended up with was a student debt of $162,000.
11:01am
she attended the international academy of design and technology, a for-profit college owned by career education corporation. tabatha is a veteran of the air force. she thought her education would give her the skills to be successful in the civilian wor workforce. she didn't pick up any advantage. she just picked up a debt. the g.i. bill didn't cover the tuition because it was too high. so she took out student loans. paying her loans is a daily struggle. for tabaatha, is consumers her life. she's constantly in battle with the lenders trying to negotiate a reasonable payment plan, and they refuse. she says she can't save for anything. she can't pay for her own health insurance, she probably can't
11:02am
get married and have children. she just can't afford t she wants to go back to a real school for a real education, but, guess what? this deeply in debt, she can't borrow any money to go to school to a real college instead of for-profit schools. for-profit schools prey on people like tabatha, they tell students everything will be great and everything will be paider fa. it is not true. the 90-10 rule permits for-profit schools to receive up to 90% of their revenue from the federal government. here's the thing. the 90% only includes federal student aid programs like pell grants and student loans. g.i. bills, department of defense tuition assistance, they're counted as private revenue giving schools an incentive to target veterans like tabatha. veterans and service members help the schools meet the 90-10
11:03am
rule and then end up with worthless educations. congress needs to stop this bloated industry. congress needs to make sure that service members and veterans have all the information they need about a school before they enroll. we need to make sure these schools are providing service members the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. schools with awful outcomes shouldn't be participating in the department of defense tuition assistance program. they should not be eligible for the g.i. bill. want to know where to save money without going into a sequestration that lays off a lot of important people across america, in some ways compromises our national security and the protection of our men and women overseas? start with the for-profit schools. these folks have tapped into the federal treasury to the tune of $32 billion a year, and you say to you are satisfy, well -- to yourself, well, why do you let
11:04am
them get away with it? they have friends in high places. they are participants in our political process. they will be founder at many of the great -- they will be found at many of the great parties and rye ceptions across the city of washington. they are finding friends in high places and protecting the $32 billion that goes to these worthless schools, many of which are a complete waste of time and money for the students. it would be bad enough if it was just a bad education or a waste of time. tabat hflt a is stuck with $162,000 student debt. there is one last kicker here. student debt is different than the other debt you have. if you borrow money for a home or a car or a boat or to buy a washer and drier an and dryer, o broke, those debts will be swept away. not student loans. student loans are not dischargeable with bankruptcy.
11:05am
tabath averages the bad news is, this is a debt that will be with you for a lifetime. student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy. that's where we are today. so when my friends come to the floor and talk about all the w ways to save money, i'll give them two to start with -- one they can vote for this afternoon, he could the direct payments to agriculture, and secondly, reform this for-profit school scam that costs us $32 billion a year. easy places to start, perhaps even on a bipartisan basis. man, i yield the floor, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll -- you dur mr. president, i am sorry,i have seven unanimous consent requests for committees to meet during today's session with the approval of the majority and minority leaders. i ask that these requests be agreed to understand a printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
11:06am
quorum call:
11:07am
11:08am
11:09am
11:10am
a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: i ask unanimous consent that the proceedings under the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. coons: what's become painfully clear to me this week is that folks here in the united states congress, folks here in the senate, aren't listening to each other anymore, and as we lurch towards our latest fiscal crisis, the looming sequester that takes effect tomorrow, i rise today to speak directly to
11:11am
the folks i work for, my constituents, my fellow delawareans. i'd like to continue a conversation that i've been having with my neighbors at the train station, in the acme, outside church, on the sidelines of my kids' sporting events consistently since coming here to serve you as delaware's junior senator. and i'm focused a bit by a facebook message i got from sandy, a neighbor, this morning. it is fairly pointed. she speaks or writes, "in 2011 when we smoke, yo spoke, you ase the effort is was so draconian it would never happen. i feel detrade by congress, the senate -- betrayed, by congress, the senate. i trusted you would hold up your end of the deal and now we go to sequestration. why can't you get anything done down there?"
11:12am
to sandy, to the nonprofits in delaware whose fund something about to get cut, to the civilian workers at dover air force base who are facing furloughs, to the educators throughout the state who may be laid off and the student whose may well be crammed into more crowded classrooms, to the parents of children who won't receive the vaccines that they need, to all my neighbors who will be abruptly impacted by what washington has failed to do this week to deal with this sequester, i am o on behalf of e united states senate, i am frustrated, i am at my wits end, i am embarrassed by our dysfunction here, i am sorry. this is simply not how your government is supposed to work. our country, as we all know, has a real long-term problem, a national debt now approaching $17 trillion, annual deficits for years of $1 trillion,
11:13am
literally adding to the problem each day we don't act together. and while the solution to this problem is not easy, it is relatively obvious. including interest savings, i do want to say this at the outset -- including interest savings, we have already saved a little less than $2 trillion sings 2010, but it is easy to miss since we've done it piecemeal through the recent fiscal cliff deal, i know the general impression all of us get at home is that we lurch from crisis to crisis, and it is unclear that we've made any progress at all of th.but we have already locken nearly $2.5 trillion in savings. as a member of the budget committee, we got to hear from the simpson-bowles commission, a whole series of economist whose grade we need $4 trillion in savings to get our deficits
11:14am
under control and to stablize our debt as a percentage of our commitment oeconomy. well, we've made about $2.5 trillion in progress. that leaves us about $1.5 trillion, maybe even $2 trillion to go, depending on how you count. more than 70% of the savings we've already enacted have come from cuts, overwhelmingly cuts to domestic spending that's critical to the future of our economy. and soy think it's important -- and so i think it's important as we go forward that we achieve some pall in the remaining component -- some balance in the remaining component. this chamber will have to pass a budget resolution this year. that's what we're working on in the budget committee, a meeting of which i just came from. we must cut spending, raise revenue and we must reform our entitlement programs. all of these have some role to play in dealing with these long-term issues. none of these things, though, can solve the problem on their own, and this has been clear for
11:15am
the three years that i have been serving here. our problem has been, we have the vocal part of one party who largely wouldn't entertain raising any revenue, and the other party who wouldn't consider reforming our entitlement programs. and so we've lurched from crisis to crisis as we try to force each other to do ton the backs -- on the backs of one piece of our large federal budget. so to my conservative neighbors or those in the other party: i'm sorry, the numbers, we can't do this through cuts in discretionary, non-defense programs alone or through entitlement programs alone. we can't responsibly deal with this deficit and debt just with those two areas. in the last two years we've already made more than $1.5 trillion in discretionary spending cuts. and on the trajectory we're on now, in the next decade the percentage these programs make
11:16am
of our total federal government will drop to levels not seen since dwight eisenhower was president. even as our revenues today are at their lowest as a percentage of our economy in 50 years. federal spending done right in the right sectors fuels our long-term competitiveness. i'm talking about investments in education and infrastructure and r&d and basic science and curing diseases and speeding he commerce. they are key to our future. one of our core areas of focus ought to be on how do we create jobs. by simply focusing on hacking off the domestic discretionary piece of our federal budget, it's like trying to lift an airplane that's trying to have, trying to get lift by cutting off one of its engines. we need to sustain investment in some of these critical areas of the federal budget. but equally, i'll say, to my liberal neighbors, to folks in
11:17am
my party, we can't solve this budget problem just by raising taxes on the wealthy and on corporations. the math just doesn't work. there's not enough we can raise there to deal with the whole challenge. and remember the fiscal cliff deal that we've just passed within the last few weeks will bring in another $600 billion in revenue over the next ten years, so we are making progress. we also can't do it if we simply ignore the poor fiscal health of our long-term entitlement programs either. last year medicare and medicaid programs plus interest on the debt made up almost 30 cents of every dollar the federal government spends. in two decades on our current trajectory it may be 50 cents of every dollar. demographics steadily rising costs of health care will keep driving this, and we must deal with it. unless we change course, putting all these things together, productive expenditures that grow our economy: medical
11:18am
research, r&d, will be crowded out. progressive priorities like head start, low-income housing assistance, breast and cervical cancer screenings, the things that help care for the least among us or that help make us healthier will be gone. so in my view, why not take this moment when we still have a democrat in the white house and democrats in control of this chamber to make tough choices while we have historically low interest rates and fight to preserve the legacy of the earned benefits -- medicare, medicaid and the vital entitlement programs we treasure. in my view we can't simply hope that the cost of our entitlement programs come down and we can't simply tax our way to economic health. anyone who tells you that either of these is enough is just wrong. spending has to be cut. entitlements have to be reformed. revenue needs to be raised. they are all a part of the problem and they should all be part of the solution. somehow, though, when we
11:19am
actually do manage previously to have a substantive debate on these questions, we tend to spend all of our time focusing on the smallest facet of the federal budget: discretionary spending. but almost no time discussing these others, the rest of the equation, the big drivers. this place has become somewhat of an alternative reality, where if we dig in real hard and people get really scared and we use fancy words like sequester or fiscal cliff, we can ignore the facts. there's no question, we do have to reduce spending. but the sequester is the worst way to do it. when conceived, the sequester was such a bad idea, both sides were supposed to be motivated to move heaven and earth to praoefpb it from take -- prevent it from taking effect. that's how terrible it is as policy. yet, here we are. i'm dumbfounded. it's not like we haven't had plenty of time to make this better. 18 months by my count. why are people talking now about
11:20am
whether boehner will lose his speakership or whether the first person to suggest the sequester worked in the white house or capitol, whether the republicans have more to gain by the sequester kicking in or democrats? how much time have we be spending here -- we been spending here trying to fix blame. who owns the sequester seems to be the fight of the day. who cares is my question? there are no winners in this fight. i think the question of how we reduce our deficits, stabilize our economy, prioritize spending that will grow jobs, this debate can either dominate the next ten years as we lurch every three months from crisis to crisis or we can address the broader, bigger question and fix it. and lay a groundwork for health, for growth, for recovery. again, the math is not that hard. the politics are. we here in congress with the executive branch have largely created this problem, and now we need to solve it. tomorrow leaders from this chamber and the house will go to
11:21am
the white house to meet with president obama about how to address the sequester on the very day it takes effect. on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of the teachers, the police officers, the nonprofits, the personnel at dover air force, the kids, their parents, my neighbors, on behalf of my state, i urge our leaders to embrace this moment and to work to avert not only this short-term sequesters, not just this $85 billion in cuts, but to resume their work on the grand bargain. we need a big deal. we need it to be balanced. we need it to be fair. spending, entitlements, revenue, they all need to be on the table and they all have to be part of the equation. my question for everyone in that meeting tomorrow -- the presiding officer: regular order. the majority time has expired. mr. coons: i ask unanimous consent for 30 seconds to conclude my remarks. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. coons: my question for
11:22am
everyone -- everyone -- both parties, both chambers who goes to this important meeting at the white house tomorrow: how much more time do we have to fight and not to act? to attack and not compromise, to spin rather than solve? based on the e-mails, the calls, the contacts i've gotten from my constituents, from my neighbors, the time to step up and address this larger problem is now. the sequester while savage is not the underlying problem. it's our unwillingness to come together across parties and chambers and deal with the underlying challenges of our budget. it is my hope, my prayer, that we will take this moment and act. thank you, mr. president, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. under the previous order the senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to s. 388, which the clerk will report. the clerk: motion to proceed to calendar number 18, s. 388, a
11:23am
bill to appropriate, limit sequestration to eliminate tax loopholes and for other purposes. ms. ayotte: mr. president? the presiding officer: tsunami. ms. ayotte: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that in addition to the two cloture votes on bills dealing with the sequester today, that there will be set a time to be determined by the majority leader in consultation with the republican leader that without intervening action or debate the senate proceed to a roll call vote on the motion to proceed to my alternative bill dealing with the sequester which is now at the desk. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: mr. president, i reserve the right to object, and will say just a few things. unless we act by midnight tomorrow -- friday -- across-the-board cuts will kick in. they're going to start kind of slow but ramp up really quick. so the question for us today is are we going to act to replace these across-the-board cuts?
11:24am
the proposal that we have put forward will prevent the cuts with a balanced plan. our plan would protect air safety, our food supply and, most importantly, our national security. and, frankly, mr. president, air safety that i mentioned, food supply, that's also part of our national security and our military. the alternative that has been put forward by my friend, the republican leader, wouldn't replace the cuts. as i said earlier this morning here on the floor, one of my colleagues in the democratic caucus said at our caucus on tuesday that he understood what the republicans are going to put forward, and he said it would be like sending the president an order, we've already decided you're going to cut off three fingers, and you're giving the president the alternative to decide which one you cut first. the republican alternative would
11:25am
not replace the cuts but would call for making the cuts in some different way. republicans call their proposal flexibility. in fact, it's anything but that. their proposal is entirely enflexible. the one proposal we have forward says if you make $5 million a year, you'll have to pay 30% tax minimum. that's it. that doesn't sound too outrageous. and that's why the american people agree. democrats, republicans and -- democrats, independents and 60% of the republicans. now -- now -- mr. president, the republican side seeks a third vote on the ayotte amendment, which would replace the cuts with a parade of even more unfair cuts and penalties or immigrants, people receiving health care under the obamacare, consumer financial protection
11:26am
bureau, those kinds of things. now, mr. president, and i also have trouble understanding -- i frankly do understand why the ayotte, as i read in the paper, ayotte, mccain and graham don't like the republican proposal. haven't we ceded enough power to the president? but anyway, so it's not our fault that we're here, that the republican leader chose to offer not the ayotte alternative but instead chose a republican alternative that we're going to vote on later today. i return to my main question again briefly. are republicans really filibustering a vote to replace the sequester? would the republican leader modify his consent to allow for a simple up-or-down vote on each of the two alternatives? would it make a difference if we
11:27am
allow votes on three bills? the ayotte alternative. i would happily have three votes if the republican leader would simply allow the votes to be held at majority thresholds. so i've asked that. i can do it formally. and i'll be happy to do so if there's any taking of my request here. but that having been the case, unless my friend, the republican leader, says why don't you put that in proper form, then i would be happy to do that. then we'd have votes on all three. simple majority on each one of them. not hearing someone say that's a great idea, then i would object to the request from my friend from new hampshire. mr. mcconnell: mr. president, i would say to my friend the majority leader, i would object in either propound, such a consent or not, whatever he chooses. but i would object. the presiding officer: is
11:28am
there objection to the original request? mr. reid: yes, i did that. the presiding officer: the objection is heard. the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: mr. president, obviously we regret there's not been able to reach an agreement. i'm especially disappointed that we are unable to consider the ayotte amendment which is an alternative to the sequestration, a flexibility of sequestration which still sooner or later have the same draconian effects on our national security. i also would point out to my colleagues that what we're about to go through is in some respects a charade because we know that the proposal on that side will not succeed with 60 votes. the proposal on this side will
11:29am
not succeed with 60 votes. meanwhile the clock moves on until some time tomorrow night. some of us warned for a long time about the effects of sequestration. and if we want to have a blame game, then i'll take blame. everybody take blame. but isn't it time that we prevented what our military leaders in uniform who have made their careers and their lives serving and sacrificing for this country say would harm and inflict terrible damage on our ability to defend this nation, our inability to train and equip the men who are serving? i always appreciate very much when members on both sides of the aisle praise the men and women who are serving in the military. i'm always pleased to see that. but shouldn't we be thinking about them now? shouldn't we be thinking about those men and women who are serving who literally don't know
11:30am
what they're going to be doing tomorrow? like the crew of the aircraft carrier that was just taken from -- decided not to deploy to the middle east at a time when tensions are incredibly high? i would also point out to my colleagues that this is not a fair sequestration. most americans believe that this is half out of defense, half out it's not. because with the time of the formulation of the sequestration, about half of the spending that we engage in is exempt, such as compensation for the president, such as the federal home loan mortgage corporation, such as payment to the district of columbia pension fund, such as host nation support fund for relocation. all of these and many, many others were made exempt, which meant that the cuts and the reductions in defense was even
11:31am
larger and obviously those who designed this legislation decided that -- that the federal home loan mortgage corporation and relocation funding was more important than national defense, because we didn't exempt national defense. that's disgraceful. so 19% of discretionary spending is out of defense. we're asking for 50% cut out of defense on top of $87 billion that's already been enacted under secretary gates, on top of $487 bipartisa billion in defene percentage of gross domestic product for defense continues to decline, and what are we doing? you know, last week there was a few days ago -- there was a wonderful ceremony in the white house where a brave american received the congressional medal of hadn't. i happened to go to an evening
11:32am
function where a book that was written by jake tapper -- i recommend it to all of my colleagues -- where eight of their colleagues were killed. and here we're unable to make sure that these young men and women who are serving in harm's way have the quilt and training and -- the equipment and training and everything they need. we are doing the men and women who are serving this nation a great disservice, and the president did them a disservice when he said in the campaign, not to worry, not to worry. sequestration won't happen. the president of the united states said that. i didn't say it. we -- the three of us traveled this country warning about the effects of sequestration, and of course we now know that the idea came from the white house. but that's the blame-game. and i'll be glad to engage in that. but can't we at least come to some agreement to prevent this?
11:33am
are we going to lurch from one fiscal cliff to another? and if we want do that, that's one thing. but what we're doing to the military -- look, general odierno is one of the really great leaders that i have had the opportunity of knowing for many years. general odierno, the chief of staff of the army, a man who's got decorations from here to here, said that he cannot replace the men and women who are serving in afghanistan under this sequestration because he doesn't have the ability to train their replacements. isn't that alarm enough for us? so we're going to go through a charade here in a little while. we're going to have a vote on the democrat proposal and it'll not get sufficient votes and the same thing here on this side, and the clock will tick and tomorrow -- tomorrow, on the last day, the president is going to call people over to the white house to see if we can address it. where was he in the last year?
11:34am
but, again, i'm not taking the floor today for the blame game. i am pleading for the men and women who are serving this nation in harm's way, who every single someday day have a hellt tougher time than we do, that we can't sit down with the president of the united states and get this issue resolved before we do great damage to our national sciewmplenational secu. i thank senator aayotte for her professional. it is real reductions in spending so that we don't have to go through the sequestration. on the one side now we have a choice between -- quote -- "flexibility "-- which nobody really knows what that means -- and on the other side obviously a proposal that really bears no relevance to the issue that faces us. so i thank my colleagues for the time. if i sound a little emotional on this issue, it's because i am.
11:35am
and it seems to me that we at least on this issue of national security and the men and women who serve our nation, we should come together. and i stand ready to put everything on the table to prevent what could be, in the words of the departing secretary of defense, "a devastating blow to our act to defend this nation" and in what i could argue are the most dangerous times. mr. president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina. mr. graham: i want to thank the senator from new hampshire who authored this amendment. she's put a lot of time and effort into trying to fix sequestration in the first year, to look at programs that are not as essential to the nation in my view as the department of defense. and let me just short of put this in perspective.
11:36am
i don't need a poll to tell me what to think about this. the majority leader referenced some poll out there about where the american people are at. i appreciate polling. it's a tool that all politicians use. i don't need one here. to know where i'm at. and the question is, do the people in south carolina think i am a right or wrong? i will a have an election in 2014. i am certainly willing to stand before the people of south carolina and say what we're doing in this sequestration proposal is ill-conceived, danger arks and despicable. and leat let's start with the commander in chief. this is what mr. lew said, our new treasury secretary. "make no mistake, the sequestration is not meant to be policy. rather, it is meant to be an unpalatable option that all parties want to avoid."
11:37am
that was their view of sequestration. and according to bob woodward and comments since, this idea came out of the white house, and the white house thought that if you created a penalty clause for supercommittee fail our called sequestration where you would have to take $600 billion of the $1.2 trillion out of the defense department, that would make the supercommittee more likely to achieve a result, and if you took $600 billion out of non-defense that would put pressure to get the supercommittee to get the right result. well, we're going to spend $45 trillion over the next decade. the question for the country is, can we save $1.2 trillion without destroying the defense department and raising taxes? yes, we could if we tried. so put me in the camp that this is aheavable. it is not something that is unachievable. but what senator mccain said is very important.
11:38am
two-thirds of the budget almost is exempt from sequestration. when you hear republicans say, surely we can find $85 billion out of $3.5 trillion in spendi spending, to my republican colleagues, stop saying that. that's not accurate. we're not cutting $85 billion out of $3.5 trillion. we're cutting $85 billion out of about $1.3 trillion, $1.25 trillion. because the budget control act took off the table two-thirds of the government from being curt. now, i'll get to the president in a minute. but let me talk about my party, the party of reagan rashing the party of peace throughs strength, the party that believes -- at least we used to, that the number-one obligation of the federal government before you do anything else is to get national security right. that was what made ronald reagan
11:39am
ronald reagan. that's what i believe. i don't need a poll to tell me that. i don't care if 90% of the people in the country said the defense department is not my primary concern. count me in the 10%. so the party of ronald reagan, even though it came out of the white house, this very bad idea, agreed to it. and what did we gray to? we agreed to take off the table two-thirds of the federal government. now, pell grants -- my sister got a pell grant when my parents died, very important program. it helps people go to college. who are low-income americans. in 2008 it was $16.25 billion, in 2013 it's a $41.5 billion. food stamps -- a lot of people need help; i understand that -- the food stamp program has doubled since 2508.
11:40am
since 2008. i guess the republican party feels like pell grants and food stamps and the f.a.a. and home mortgage interest deduction and awful this other stuff in the federal government should be shielded, but those who've been fighting the war that protects us all from radical islam should be on the chopping block. ronald reagan should be rolling over in his grave. shame on everybody who agreed this was a good idea on our side. i cannot tell you how disgusted i am with the concept that when it comes time to cut, because a bunch of politicians can't get an agreement, we fire the soldiers, keep the politicians, and every other social program intact but half the cuts on those who are fighting the war. so the next time you go on a military base, good luck with looking those men and women in
11:41am
the eye, because i don't see how you could. i don't see how you could go onto a military base or see somebody in the airport and shake their hand and thank them for their service given the fact that you've taken the defense department and made it something not very special anymore. so i will wrap this up here. i'm going to -- i'm going to get to the president and then i'll wrap it up. this is what secretary panetta said. "after ten years of these cuts s we'd have the smallest ground forces since 40, the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the smallest air force in its hoamplet" this isn't like the drawdowns in the past with the when the potential enemy was disabled and in some way rendered ineffective. we're still confronting a number of threats in the world. it would dismate our defense, cripple us in terms of our ability to protect this country, it would result in the hollowing out of our force it would terribly weaken our abet to respond to threats in the world. it a ship without sailors a
11:42am
brigade without bullets, an air train without enough pilots, it a paper tiring. it invites aggression. a hollow military doesn't happen by accident. it comes from poor stewardship and poor leadership." i couldn't agree more. to my democratic colleagues, we're not going to raise anymore taxes to specked the money on the government is -- to spend the money on the government. the next time we're going to try to get out of debt. every time there is a crisis in this nation, wa, you want to rae taxes. we've got enough money if we just spend it better. to my republican colleagues, there's not enough flexibility in the world to change the topline number. you either believe secretary panetta or you don't. you either believe every military commander -- i don't trust everything a general tells me, but the question for me is, disco do i trust all the generao tell me the same thing? can all of them be wrong? it is one thing to have a dispute with a general and
11:43am
admiral but what every one tells you the same thing and we don't believe them, we need to fire them -- or act accordingly. as to the president, you've got one obligation that nobody in this body has. you're the commander in o in chf the united states. they trust you, they need you, your primary goal is to protect -- take care of those in uniform and their families. man, you have let them down. my party let them down, but you're different than any other politician. you're the commander in chief. how you could have considered this as an acceptable outcome just makes nesic to my stomach. how any commander in chief could have been comfortable with the idea that if the supercommittee table, we're goinfails, we're ge military. you finally go back down to the military base a few days before this kicks n this is pathetic
11:44am
leadership by the commander in chievement this is an abandonment of the republican party's belief u this is a low point for me in the united states congress. we're not going to raise taxes to fund the government. we're going to raise taxes in my construct to pay down debt and fix entitlements. so i cannot tell you how ashamed i am of what we've done to those who have really been busting their b.t.u. for the last 11 -- their butt for the last 11 years, who have been deploild ployed time and time again. the thank you you get from your president and the congress is we're going put your life on the chopping block. god, if we can't do better than that, all of us should be fired. fire the politicians, keep the soldiers. mr. mccain: would the senator respond to one question? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i believe i have the floor. mr. mccain: i have the right to ask a question of the person who has the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from south carolina yielding for a question. mr. whitehouse: okay.
11:45am
mr. mccain: my question is, do you think the american people appreciate and understand what this does to the lives of the men and women who are serving -- for example, those who are serving on that aircraft carrier that they said was going to deploy for many months and it was canceled at the last minuteg plans that are now going to have to be canceled? the deployments that will be changed? not to mention the massive layoffs in the defense industry which sometimes are not easily replaceable. that's my question. mr. graham: i don't know if they do or not, senator mccain. we've done everything we could, the three of us, to tell them what's coming our way. all i can say is that every admiral who's told us the same thing, i respect what they're telling us. leon panetta is a democrat but he's dead right. he's been a great secretary of defense. i trust their judgment. i know enough about the military
11:46am
budget to know if you take $600 billion out of the budget on top of the $487 billion plus the $89 billion, you're going to make us less able to defend this nation, put our men and women at risk and that's what this debate is all about. i want to thank senator ayotte who's come up with an alternative that would avoid this without raising taxes. so i would like to -- my time is up. i don't know who's next. mr. whitehouse: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: i simply want to interject for a moment to sort out the order on the floor, and i apologize to the senator from arizona for the last exchange. i thought that i had the floor at that point. i understand this has been in the nature of a colloquy, and i'd like to allow it to continue and have senator ayotte speak next. i think that's what seems to be in order. senator mikulski is here, chairman of the appropriations committee. perhaps she could be recognized at the conclusion of senator ayotte's remarks. i see senator inhofe as well. perhaps he could follow senator mikulski and i would follow senator inhofe. i would offer that as a
11:47am
proposal. the presiding officer: is there objection? mr. inhofe: reserving the right to object. mr. president, i will be talking later on. i don't need to be in this lineup. i only wanted to ask one question of the senator, senator ayotte, when she has the floor. mr. whitehouse: the senator, i believe, has that right if she will yield to him. ms. ayotte: yes. the presiding officer: is there objection? if not, so ordered. ms. ayotte: thank you, mr. president. and i thank my colleague from rhode island very much for allowing me the opportunity to continue and for sorting out the order on the floor. mr. inhofe: would the senator yield for a question before you start? ms. ayotte: i would, senator inhofe. then i would like to -- mr. inhofe: yes. the question is this. i already know that you know this. others may not know this, but make sure that they are aware that i am in support of your bill. that i am a cosponsor of your bill way back when you first started with jon kyl a long time ago. and i agree with what was said by both senators from south carolina and arizona.
11:48am
so, in fact, it is my request that yours be the republican alternative. and i just want to make sure that everyone knew that. you think it's a good idea? ms. ayotte: thank you, senator inhofe. i really appreciate your statement and your support. and i certainly join in the comments and concerns that were just raised by my colleagues, senator mccain and senator graham. here's where we are. we're in this position where, frankly, as senator mccain said, it's a charade. we're both -- both parties are acting out this play where we're going to have one vote on the democratic alternative that's going to fail. we're going to have another vote on one republican alternative that's going to fail. and so i had -- i put pen to paper and came up with some other ways to cut spending that comes up to about $250 billion in savings over the next ten years to address sequester and
11:49am
also that -- to have an alternative, because i believe that the american people see through the charade of what's going to happen today and that ultimately that as the prior speakers have said, the sequester was set up to be resolved in a way where we had alternative savings that did not undermine our national security and some of the core services that could be put at risk in the way that the sequester is structured. and i firmly believe that when you look at what has happened here, this bill was ill conceived from the beginning. i didn't support it. i didn't vote for it. and one of the fundamental problems with it is it was a "kick the can down the road" exercise, where we gave our responsibility to find the $1.2 trillion in savings, the
11:50am
sequester that was set up to a super committee rather than us doing our job and budgeting and prioritizing, the entire senate and the budget committee. stepping back, that is what led us here. but i'm also disappointed in my republican colleagues. that's why i offered an alternative of spending cuts because it seems to me that the way this is structured, we've already taken $487 billion in reductions to our defense. i serve on the senate armed services committee. i've been listening for a year on that committee to our military leaders at every single level, asking them about the sequester and from the highest leaders, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff to the secretary of defense, we have heard things like we're going to shoot ourselves in the head. we're going to hollow out our force. america will no longer be a
11:51am
global power, general demsey once told us, as a result of sequestration. this morning we had leaders of our military before the armed services committee, and i asked assistant secretary estevez if we go with the flexibility approach, does this address the impact on our national security? in other words, will this address making sure that we can still meet the needs of our national security at a time -- let's not forget -- at a time when iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon, when we have conflict in syria, when we are still at war. and, by the way, this sequester, the way it impacts the department of defense, our war funding was not exempt from the sequester. over 50% of spending as this was set up from the beginning was exempt from the sequester which is no way to find savings throughout the whole government. but we didn't exempt the war funding.
11:52am
so at a time of war i asked the assistant secretary does the flexibility solve the problem to our national security, and he said flexibility will help us deal with it but it will not solve the problem in terms of our national security. and so that's why i decided to come up with some alternative savings. my proposal will not get a vote today, and i think -- i think it's a time when, frankly, we should bring more ideas to the floor, not less ideas. and really debating this vigorously in the united states senate instead of where we are right now, which is really, i think it is a charade, that we're going to have one vote and another vote, and we're all going to get into our sides and say, okay, american people, even though we know that there are real risks, particularly to the safety of this country, that we should be addressing, that i believe we can, from my perspective, i believe we can address it through alternative spending cuts and through all of this we have the president of the united states, he has called
11:53am
leaders of both parties tomorrow to the white house. i spent a year working on this issue. he was in the newport news shipyard the other day. we were there in july talking about the impact on that shipyard. we traveled to states around the country, to military facilities to tell them and to talk with the people there at those facilities about the impact of sequester. and so i think the president should have been on this much sooner. and so now it is time for his leadership as the commander in chief, leadership that i think this summer when we were all talking about it, we could have been in a position to try to resolve it then rather than continuing to be at these crisis moments that we find ourselves in this senate. so where i am left on all this is that we owe it to our men and women in uniform to find alternative ways to save them
11:54am
money, protecting our national security. and also just so people understand how this plays out, the way the cuts are taken in 2013 during a shorter period, not a full period, o.m.b. has estimated on the defense end it's about 13% on top of the $487 billion in reductions. on the non-defense spending it is about 9% over the additional $487 billion. and so i would just simply ask that i think it's time for us to stop the charade. and it is my hope that we actually get down to resolving this in a responsible way for our country. and that's why i put pen to paper, and people can be critical of my proposal, but i think that now is the time when we should have a vote on every proposal. and we should have every idea come to the table, because it is a time to stop the charade and it's time to solve this problem, to make sure that we protect our
11:55am
country at a very dangerous time. and i will continue to work to do that for our country. i think we can do it, still addressing our deficit, still with savings. but we certainly need to do it. and having the charade vote we're going to have today won't solve it. the american people deserve better, and we should be giving them better in solving this. i thank you, mr. president, for giving me the time here. ms. mikulski: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from maryland. ms. mikulski: mr. president, i rise to speak in behalf of the democratic alternative that would cancel the sequester for this year. but i must -- if the gentlelady from new hampshire could just take a minute before she leaves the floor, i just want to compliment her on her energy, her passion, the fact that she actually wants to present ideas to be discussed, i think that's excellent. i want the gentlelady also to
11:56am
know i support that concept that she's advocating of no more delay. that you cannot solve america's fiscal situation and also important public investments we need to make in research and innovation and keep our fragile economy going by just punting it down. so i think we agree on that. the other thing that we agree is the goal. get our fiscal crisis in order, strengthen our economy, and keep america strong. we're going to disagree on the means. that's okay. that's called america. that's called the senate. that's called debate. that's got the world -- let the world watch and hear that we actually have ideas. and just like we're doing this minute, do it with civility, interest in what's being said. i found what you had to say was very interesting. and i just want you -- and i'll have a few comments about that and what the senator from south
11:57am
carolina said. but what i want you to know is that i do think we must begin to move with urgency. i do think that the politics of delay, ultimatum and brinksmanship should come to an end. and i like the idea of debating ideas and look forward both in conversations and so on. so i just wanted to say that. ms. ayotte: thank you. would the gentlelady from maryland yield for a brief comment? ms. mikulski: yes. ms. ayotte: thank you. i wanted to say, first of all, i know that you are the new chair of the appropriations committee, and i congratulate you on that. and i think as we go forward, as we look at why we are where we are, if we can get back to regular order in this place with a budget and a regular appropriations process, i think we would do a great service to the american people and not having this crisis to crisis. and i know that the gentlelady who is now the chair of the appropriations committee will
11:58am
play a leadership position in doing that. ms. mikulski: i absolutely will. stkwruft to respond -- just to respond, first of all, i have a great vice chairman, senator richard shelby on the other side of the aisle who shares that same thing. what does the regular order mean? that we bring out a bill at a time. we don't have $1 trillion on the floor at one time. you can't discuss it, debate it, analyze it. and no more 7,000-page bills where we find things are parachuted in in the middle of the night. so i agree with you. i look forward to it. i look forward to working with you and look forward to doing more of the same. ms. ayotte: i thank you very much. ms. mikulski: mr. president, i do want to rise and support the bill that is offered as our democratic alternative. it is a balanced solution to prevent a dysfunctional, disruptive, across-the-board spending cuts called sequester. sequester is a washington word
11:59am
and a washington invention that will -- that we came up during the budget crisis debacle on august of 2011 that we would cut $1 trillion over ten years, $110 billion at a time. it was supposed to be resolved through the super committee. it didn't happen. it was supposed to be resolved through the fiscal cliff all the way up to new year's eve. what happened? we punted. we delayed two months. and so here we are. so while we're facing the draconian implications of it, we do have an answer. and what that answer is composed of is a balanced approach where we look at increased revenue and strategic cuts that will not cripple our economy nor weaken america's strength here or abroad.